julie computer pool 2

Pre-planning For Our Next Big Trip!

We’ve spent the last few months pet sitting in the UK while we save and plan for our next big adventure. This one will be our longest in duration and the furthest we’ve travelled as we head through Asia and on to Australia and New Zealand for what we hope will be a 12 month adventure.

We’ve had so many lovely messages from people we’ve inspired to take up House and Pet Sitting as a way of seeing more of the world. We thought this blog post may be really helpful for anyone thinking of planning a house and pet sitting adventure or perhaps some of you that have been building reviews locally with a plan to head off further afield.

We’ll be sharing details of all the pre-planning we’ve done which we hope will make our latest adventure go as smoothly as our last. We really hope you may find little snippets that you can use when planning your own house and pet sitting adventure.

Funding Our Travel

The most important first step has been for us to make sure we can afford the adventure. We always make a rough financial plan for any adventure and make sure we list every expense we’ll have to cover for that period of time. Once we have the final figure, we can then work out how we go about raising the funds for the trip.  So how do we get to that final figure?

OK, well we start with the most important list of costs …… Travel Insurance, Flight Costs, Transport On The Ground, Food Costs, Any Other Accommodation Costs and A Buffer Fund. We then take each one individually and break them down to get a final figure for each. So for our up coming 12 month trip the figures may look a lot at first glance, but spread them out over 12 months and the monthly cost is a lot less than you might think.  (Just to say our cost are in British Pounds, anyone from other countries reading this will need to convert the numbers to their own currency.

So here it is then our breakdown for the trip ahead.

Travel Insurance – £1,020 for the year (Yep I know its horrendous, hopefully you youngsters will get it much cheaper!!)
Flight Costs – £3,660 (Well we have quite a few flights …. UK to Thailand, Thailand to Australia, Australia to New Zealand, New Zealand to Australia, Australia to UK)
Transport on the Ground – £1,500 (This figure is our best guess, but we’ve worked out roughly what we need including taxis in Thailand, Buses in Australia, Car Hire and Trains in New Zealand.
Food Costs – £5,500 (Now not everyone could have a food budget so low, but we know how cheaply we can eat and worked out that we can live on £15 per day. How do we do it? Firstly, we rarely buy alcohol while we’re travelling, Secondly, we’ll live really cheaply on £5 a day 3 times a week, so we then get to live on £22.50 a day the other 4 days of the week (Happy Days)!
Any Other Accommodation Costs – £1,000 (Sometimes you just can’t get back to back house sits, which means you have a gap to fill and somewhere to stay is needed. Having room in the budget for this is a must. We’ll of course do whatever we can to get a free bed for the night, We’ve couch surfed like the rest of you youngsters!)
A Buffer Fund – £2,000 (If things go wrong and from time to time they will, a bit of a decent Buffer Fund is highly recommended. This could cover anything from a Sit cancellation to an unplanned plane ticket, who knows, but we’re glad to have it).

So lets summarise those costs:
Travel Insurance – £1,020
Flights – £3,660
Other Transport – £1,500
Food – £5,500
Other Accommodation Costs – £1,000
Buffer Fund – £2,000
Total Trip Budget – £14,680

That’s £14,680 for the year = £1,223 per month
You’ve got to say that’s not too bad when you think we’ll travel for 12 months to the other side of the world and back!

So we have our final number as approximately £1,250 a month we need to either earn while we travel, or as we do, earn before we travel.

How we fund our travel, including this trip, is through our online work, coupled with full time house sitting for a few months in the UK, which saves us £1000’s in costs (which we would have if we owned a home) Over just 5 months with careful spending we’ve saved a third of our upcoming trip amount. The rest will come from our online earnings.

OK, so that’s the funding sorted …… By the way if anyone may be wondering how to work remotely or how to go about setting up an online business, please take a look at this link: How To Fund A Life Of Travel

How We Worked Out The Budget

So now that we’ve worked out some figures, we’ll go through a bit more detail of how we worked all these numbers out.

1.) Travel Insurance
There are various types of insurance and depending on the length of time and type of trip will determine which is the best insurance for your needs. We’ve paid a higher price as we have to declare a pre-existing condition and we also have cover for 12 months. Insurance can be much cheaper for you youngsters and for shorter trips.
We’ve used Avanti and Allcleartravel recently for our travel insurance needs but shop around. Comparison Sites can be a good way of getting an idea of best prices.

2.) Flights
We tend to use a flight comparison site (Kayak and Skyscanner are our go-to sites) to initially check flight prices and then once we have found the best prices for a flight we take a look at the companies offering the flights and select a company we have used in the past.

If you take a look at the screenshot below, we’ve made a search for flights from London to Bangkok. Thai Airways have a well priced flight and the cheapest company offering the flight is Travel2Be. 

From experience, some of the third party budget flight sales companies offering the flights cheaper than the airlines themselves may be cheap, but they can be a nightmare to deal with once you’ve booked your flight. We’ve been lucky using some in the past, but on other occasions when we’ve needed to change flights, add seats and check in, some have been less than helpful. 

If you look at the screenshot below for the same flight, if you click on the little “20 more” icon, it lists all the companies selling the same flight. We also check the airlines price directly through their website as sometimes for an extra few pounds booking directly gives you a bit more peace of mind.

Everyone has a different view on flight bookings and it really depends on your budget. Personally, if its a short hall flight of 3 hours or so and we don’t mind where we sit on the plane we’ll always book the cheapest we can. If we’re flying for 8 hours or more and we want to sit next to each other we’ll do a bit more research on who we book through.

3.) Other Transport Costs
Although we have an idea of where we plan to visit on this adventure and have already pre-booked some airport transfers (we use Hoppa most of the time unless we can find a local taxi firm with good reviews).  We can’t plan every single bus, internal flight, boat transfer or train journey. We always do a little research in to which mode of transport would be cheapest in each country. Its worth doing the sums too, as an example, we almost booked an overnight train journey in Thailand which would have taken 12 hours, we then found that Airasia would fly us the same route for £10 more and have us at our destination in 1 hour.  Always shop around when you want to get from A to B. Social media is a great way to get tips from people who have already done the trip. Its amazing how many helpful people there are on local community groups and forums.

4.) Food Costs
We covered how we work out our food budget in the last section. We can live on £15 per day. How do we do it? Firstly, we rarely buy alcohol while we’re travelling, Secondly, we’ll live on £5 a day 3 times a week, so we then get to live on £22.50 per day the other 4 days of the week. We are very strict with this budget and the way we see it, we would rather eat and drink less, for the chance to visit a bucket list destination like the ones we’ve been lucky enough to visit in the pictures below!

5.) Other Accommodation Costs
As we mentioned before, sometimes you just can’t get back to back house sits, which means you have a gap to fill and somewhere to stay is needed. If you are happy bunking up with 12 others in a hostel room your budget may be much less than ours! Its a best guess figure but we’ve gone for 20 nights of accommodation at £50 per night which gives us a good couple of weeks extra accommodation in the budget should we need it. We always use Booking.com as they offer free cancellation on most rooms and this is a real plus if our plans change last minute and we need to cancel a room and get our money back.

6.) Buffer Fund
We mentioned earlier that things can go wrong from time to time on an adventure or you need some extra money for something you hadn’t planned to do. This can be anything from a visit to a doctor, a real pig out day at a restaurant, an unplanned plane ticket or a bucket list experience like paying for a bungy jump! A bit of a Buffer Fund is highly recommended and we’ve given ourselves £2000 which we’ll probably spend on bungy jumps and happy hour beer!

A Summary Of Pre -planning Any Trip

We hope you’ve found this blog post useful and we hope we’ve thought of everything we need to make our trip run smoothly. We’ll be setting off on the 10th November 2022 so look out for more blogs on our 12 month pet sitting adventures.

To finish though we’d just like to add a few more tips about pre-planning trips which again we hope some of you may find of use.

When we are planning a trip we are always very mindful of the amount of cash and currency we will need to carry while we are away. We always carry a little cash in the currency of the countries we are visiting. The rest of the currencies we will pre-load on to a pre-paid card. We highly recommend Revolut.  We’ve been using them since they first set up and we’ve always found them the perfect option for us. We load the card with our home currency (UK Pounds) and then change money to other currencies using an app, We have a physical visa card and a virtual card too. We can make payments and withdraw cash in any local currency we have on the card and we get really good exchange rates as well.

Border Controls
We make sure we have all our visa’s and papers in order before we head off on our adventure. This is really pretty important especially when we are House and Pet Sitting which often allows us to stay in a country longer than most tourists can afford.

Which ever country we are visiting, we check to see what visa requirement we need to arrange. Firstly, we check how long we can stay in the country as a tourist and make sure we can travel to our next country on a new visa. Our reason for visiting any country is as a tourist to see the sites, so as a result we require a tourist visa to enter some countries. We also check if any of the countries require us to provide an onward flight ticket, or to prove we have sufficient daily funds to pay for our stay. We also carry a rough itinerary of our route and include any paid accommodation bookings, stays with friends (our pet owners have already become friends before our trip – so we call them friends on our itinerary rather than pet sits!).  We include any other touristy things we have pre-booked such as car hire/transport and any attraction bookings. Anything that shows border control we are tourists (even if longer term tourists) and visiting their country to see the many amazing sites they have to offer us.

The Boring Bits
We weren’t going to include any boring bits but we thought we should just mention one more thing. We always make sure we have everything organised in our “home” country (we call the UK our home country even though we are Nomads, as this is where we are originally from). We book and pay for a dentist appointment for a check up and clean before we leave. We always give a family member our itinerary just in case anyone needs to know where we are in an emergency. We have top up phone cards for our home country. We pause these and buy new temporary pay as you go sims in any countries we are visiting. Another thing you may have to think about is if you have direct debits set up in your home country make sure you have left enough funds in your account while you are away!

Best of luck with your next adventure, have an awesome time and we hope you’ve found this blog post useful.

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julie computer pool 2

3 Months in Manly, Australia – Almost Accommodation Free!

We recently returned from a 3 month trip to the Sydney Northern beach resort of Manly in Australia and had the most amazing time along with 63 days of those days ACCOMMODATION FREE! saving us in excess of £10,000 in accommodation costs.   We stayed in beautiful homes in a location that would normally cost more than £1,200 per week rental fees!

We also had the company of beautiful Charcoal the Cavapoo pup for 7 of those weeks, staying in a nice apartment just 5 minutes walk from Manly Wharf. 2 further weeks were spent house sitting a lovely villa with private pool high on the clifftop with fabulous views of the ocean. 

All thanks to being part of the TrustedHousesitters Community which has given us this amazing travel opportunity.

Charcoal From Manly, Australia

We arrived in Sydney in mid December 2021 with Covid restrictions still in place, meaning we had to self isolate for 6 days while we had two negative tests after arriving in the country. We had pre-booked some cheap accommodation in Sydney for this time (ordinarily we would have been able to start house sitting as soon as we arrived and normally wouldn’t have the added cost of accommodation on arrival). Six days later, we were released from quarantine and stayed with our children in Sydney over Christmas. Our first 7 week house and pet sit was due to start shortly after Christmas.

We arrived at our house and pet sit about an hour before the owners were leaving. We had a tour of the apartment and a little walk with the owners and Charcoal the Cockapoo who would be our little pup for the next 7 weeks. The first evening we took little Charcoal down to the ocean and a lovely walk along the promenade.

Charcoal was the perfect little chap, who just loved to go everywhere with us and watched our every move. Over the next few weeks we had a wonderful time with him, taking him on long walks along the coast, drives to different beaches, dog parks and daily visits to the local cafes.

 Friday nights was happy hour at The Bavarian at the Wharf in Manly. This was Charcoal’s favourite pub, so we just had to take him along so he could people watch and scare the seagulls! He loved all the little outings he had with us.

Charcoal was really keen to explore Sydney with us and show us all the sites. The ferry that goes from Manly to Sydney requires dogs to be in a crate to be able to board the ferry.  Unfortunately the owners didn’t own a crate, so we asked the ferry crew if we could take him on in a bag which they agreed would be OK. So over the next few days we taught Charcoal to sit in a bag and walked him around the house in it. After a couple of days he loved it, so we took him on the ferry and a day trip in to Sydney.

While we had Charcoal we were lucky enough to spend time with our grandson. We asked the owners if it would be OK for Charcoal to join our sons dog Moose and our grandson at the local dog parks. The owners were thrilled as they new Charcoal really liked play dates with other dogs. Charcoal and Moose quickly became best buddies and had some really awesome times together.

Our 7 weeks with Charcoal was far too short. He really had a wonderful time with lots of fun at the beach and long walks along the coast. We took him swimming regularly. To start with he was a little hesitant to go very deep into the water but after a few days he was running and jumping in and fetching a ball and swimming with us. He also loved to people watch down by the Wharf or at the local coffee shops.

He also loved that we were at home a lot of the time too, as he liked to help us with our work, really loved to have some grooming and especially chilling with his wombat in his comfy bed.

After a tearful goodbye to Charcoal we headed off to a house sit about a 20 minutes walk from Manly Wharf. We didn’t have any pets to look after this time, just the property and the swimming pool which Jonathan has experience of from his days as a pool manager.  The house sit was for 3 weeks but unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worst and Sydney had the most rain and flooding for over 50 years. However, this didn’t put a damper on our time at the villa as we still managed to get a few walks out and visits from our little grandchild who even had a sleepover with us one night.

We spent our final week in Australia staying at the Boutique Lodge Manly to have a little bit of rest and relaxation, a final bit of time with the grandchild and get ourselves ready for the return trip to England.

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How to Fund A Life of Travel

How To Earn Cash From Matched Betting

Matched Betting

During the Coronavirus Pandemic, we found ourselves short of income from our website business and the real necessity to find something we could do online to at least partly fill the gap with some extra cash. Trawling through the internet I came across Matched Betting. A little sceptical and with no betting experience I trod carefully as I researched the system in great detail …… After a couple of weeks of research I took the plunge with cash to fund my initial bets of just £50 ……

In just over 8 months I earned £5000 risk free and better still Tax Free!

If you’re interested in finding out how anyone can earn money from Matched Betting with as little as £50 start up costs, I’m happy to share my experience and give you all the information you need to start Matched Betting today and earn some extra tax free cash.


What exactly is Matched Betting?

In simple terms Matched Betting (as the name suggests is where you match a bet to win with a bet to lose) resulting in a system of making money from free bet promotions offered by bookmakers.

To take the risk out of the bet (to guarantee you won’t lose) you do something called “Laying” the bet.

Don’t worry, if it sounds complicated ….. if I can do it anyone can!

In this blog I will explain as simply as I can exactly how it works, run you through an example and then take you through a real promotion that you can copy to make your first cash from a promotion and hopefully set you on the path to earning a decent amount of extra cash from Matched Betting.

Let Me Give You A Simple Example!

Let’s say that a betting shop has a joining promotion offering you a £10 free bet if you place a bet of £10 on any event. So, take a horse race for instance ……. if you were to place a bet on Red Rum to win. There are two possible outcomes, Red Rum will either win or lose, so you will either win some money or lose all of your money. But, if you place a £10 bet on Red Rum to win as well as a £10 bet on Red Rum to lose, you won’t win any money, but you won’t lose any either. The two bets would cancel each other out, but as a result you would have met the requirements to claim your £10 free bet without losing any money. Take a look at the diagram below ……..

As you can see, if Red Rum wins the race, you both win and lose £10. If Red Rum loses the race, you also win and lose £10. Either way, your overall profit is zero, but you will have met the requirements to qualify for your free bet by placing a £10 bet on the horse race. So how do we make money from our free bet? Well, you could just place your free bet on anything and hope it wins, but you’d really be relying on luck and the odds are stacked against you winning! Matched betting is all about guaranteeing profit on free bets. To do that, we simply repeat the process again, covering all outcomes on another event. Doing this will give you around 80% of the value of your free bet. So, for our £10 free bet, we’d make around £8 profit.

Matched Betting In A Little More Detail!

Now we all know that in betting there is more than one outcome. For instance, on a football match there are three possible outcomes, a win, a draw or a loss. Because of this and the need to cover all outcomes on a bet in matched betting, we use something called an exchange. Now a normal bookmaker enables us to put bets on to win, but an exchange also gives you the option to put a bet on something to lose. So, to cover all outcomes of a football match ….. we can put a bet on the team to win with one bookmaker and put the same bet on the team not to win with the exchange (this part of the bet covers both a draw and a loss, as a draw still means the team hasn’t won the match). These two bets are called a “BACK” bet and “LAY” bet. A Back bet is the bet we place with the bookmaker on the team to win. A Lay bet is the bet we put on the same team to lose.

Below is another example using a football match between Burnley and Arsenal. We would be placing a £5 bet on Arsenal. So you can see we place our “BACK” bet with Coral on Arsenal to win at odds of 1.61 and to match the bet we would then place our “LAY” bet with Smarkets on Arsenal to lose at odds of 1.63.

Lets just familiarise ourselves with a few words that you’ll here often used in Matched Betting and exactly what they mean. You’ll come across them often so its worth having them here as a reminder.

“BOOKMAKER” – The bookmaker is where we will place our bet on an event to win!

“EXCHANGE” – This is a bookmaker who allows us to place the bet on an event to lose!

“BACK BET” – This is what the bet is called when you bet with the bookmaker on the event to win!

“LAY BET” – This is what the bet is called when you bet with the exchange on the event to lose!

OK, so now you have the basics of matched betting lets look at a real promotion.

We’ll Go Through Coral’s New Customer Promotion Making A
Guaranteed Profit of £15!

This is a new customer offer from Coral offering £20 in Free Bets when you bet £5. From this offer, we can make a guaranteed £15. This is a relatively easy offer to start with and more importantly you only need a small amount of funds to complete the offer.

First, You’ll Need To Open A Smarkets Account …… And Here’s How!

Smarkets is one of the best exchanges with more often than not good odds for matched betting. They’re also the largest of all the betting exchanges and its probably the best one to choose for those new to matched betting. Click below to go to the Smarkets website and follow the instructions to open a new account.


Next, You’ll Need To Open A Coral Account …… And Here’s How!

We’ve chosen Coral as they are offering new customers £20 in free bets when they place a bet of £5. Now this certainly isn’t the biggest welcome offer out there, but its best to start small as this ensures you don’t need a large amount of cash to get started. click below to open the Coral website and follow the instructions to open a new account.


Changing The Bookmakers & Exchange Odds To A Decimal Rather Than A Fraction!

Normally when you see odds at a bookmakers you’ll see them as a fraction (as an example 2/1). But for matched betting we need to Switching to decimal odds as this makes comparing odds so much easier. Exchanges (in this instance we are using Smarkets as the exchange) use decimal odds already, but most bookmakers (in this instance we are using Coral) use fractional odds. You can usually find the switch to decimal odds either at the top of the page, in the sidebar on the left, or if you go to your account and open up settings. So with Coral for instance, its located in your account settings. To find them go to the very top right hand corner of the page and click on the image of a person, from the drop down menu click on settings, then click on betting settings. You’ll then see that you can click on Decimal, then click on Sports (top left of the page, next to the Coral logo). You can then see that all of the odds are now showing as decimals.

Placing Your Bets!

So, now that you have your Coral bookmaker account and Smarkets exchange account set up, lets get going with Coral’s introductory offer. Every offer you’ll come across has a few terms that you need to be aware of. Examples of this might be minimum odds of your bet, a particular sport or even a specific football match or horse race. If you look at Coral’s introductory offer terms, you’ll see that the our qualifying bet can be placed on any sport and the odds need to be a minimum of 1.5 or greater.

I recommend that you place your qualifying bet on a popular event that lots of people would be betting on such as Premier League Football. You’ll find it much easier to match your bets.
So just to remind you, we need to place our qualifying bet of £5 on any sporting event at odds of 1.5 or higher. Once we have done this and the event is over we will have met the criteria and be issued with our £20 in free bets.

Now when we place the £5 qualifying bet we want to find a game that has odds as near to 1.5 as possible. If you also remember the reason we joined two different bookmakers, Coral where we will be placing our “BACK” bet on the football team to win and Smarkets where we will be placing a “LAY” bet on the same team to lose. We need to make sure that we get both bets as close to each other as possible.

So, as an example if the odds for the football team to win are 1.5 we need the odds for the same team to lose to be as close to 1.5 as possible (eg. 1.51) If we do this we will be matching the bet and win or lose we will receive most of our £5 qualifying bet back.

Lets Find Some Odds Suitable For Our Qualifying Bet!

So, I’ve found odds of 1.61 for Arsenal to beat Burnley at Coral. This is our back bet. On Smarkets (the exchange), I’ve found that the odds for Arsenal to lose against Arsenal are 1.63 making the BACK odds and LAY odds nice and close, perfect for matching our qualifying bet.

Placing Our Back Bet!

So lets place our qualifying bet with Coral. You know you need to place a bet of £5 to qualify. Simply click on the ‘1.61‘ button underneath ‘Arsenal’, enter your stake of £5 and click ‘Place Bet. That’s it the BACK bet is placed.

Placing Our Lay Bet!

What you don’t know yet is how much you need to stake at Smarkets to even out your bets. This is where I use a Match Betting Calculator (I’ll tell you where to get a matched betting calculator, along with some really good guides at the end of the blog). You simply insert your back stake of £5 and our back odds which were 1.61 for Arsenal to win (back commission is 0% as coral don’t charge us a commission). We then insert our lay odds which are 1.63 on Arsenal to lose (Smarkets charge us 2% commission so insert 2% as the lay commission).  The calculator will then tell you how much you need to stake at Smarkets to be as close to breaking even as possible. Based on my Arsenal example, that is a stake of £5.14 and results in a tiny overall loss of 12 pence. You can see this from the calculator results below.

In order to double check that we are placing the correct amounts on our bets we can use a checking calculator (I’ll tell you were you can find this and some other brilliant stuff to help make things a lot easier later in the blog). But for now take a look at the calculator below. You’ll see that I’ve placed in the £10 stake and the 1.61 Back Odds and 1.63 Lay Odds as in the diagram above. Scroll down a little further the part circled in red and you’ll see the “Profit Breakdown” show us that whether we win or lose the bet we will make a 20p loss on our qualifying bet. 

OK, so we’ve placed our qualifying bet on the game, once the game is over we will be given a £10 free bet by Coral

Now in order to make money on our £10 free bet we use the same system of betting on a team to win and betting on the same team to lose (just as we have in the demonstration above. 

But there is one important thing we have to do. That is to bet on team that has high odds. Look at the demonstration above again and you will see that we bet on Arsenal at 1.61 odds to win and 1.63 odds to lose.

With our free bet we want to look for a team with odds over 5.0

So something like Luton to win at odds of 5.50 and Luton to lose at odds of 5.60

With the odds high we can actually make money from the free bet whatever the outcome.

So we’ll place our bets again with Coral and Smarkets as in the diagram below ………

Below shows the calculator again using the rather clever “Free Bet Mode” (again I’ll show you where to access this neat bit of kit later)

You’ll see that this time I’ve placed the £10 free bet as the amount of the bet and then the 5.50 Back Odds for Luton to win and 5.60 Lay Odds for Luton to lose. Again, scroll down a little further and you’ll see the “Profit Calculator” which this time tells us that whether we win or lose the bet we will make £7.90 on our free bet.

So now that we’ve run through how matched betting works, placing a qualifying bet for a promotion and how you can extract a profit from a free bet you receive as a result of placing a bet on a promotion, you’re now ready to take advantage of all the other bookmaker sign ups and re-load offers with the potential to make £1000’s of pounds tax free. Good Luck!






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collage our road trip2

50 days in California – almost Accommodation Free!

We have just returned from a 3 month trip exploring California and had the most amazing time and with 50 days almost ACCOMMODATION FREE! saving us $6,380 and allowed our travel budget to stretch much further.   We stayed in beautiful homes in locations we had always wanted to visit and with an added bonus that is positively PAWSOME!

For years we’d talked about exploring California. High on our list to visit were Yosemite National Park, Grand Canyon and Death Valley in particular  as well as San Francisco. We never really thought that dream would ever happen.  

Being part of the TrustedHousesitters Community has given us that travel opportunity.

For the last 2 years we have been almost full time house sitting in the UK and in this time we saved £9,000 on rental accommodation to go towards our 5 year International house sitting travel fund.   By living free of charge in other people’s homes while the owners themselves travel, allows our own travel fund to stretch much further.  But the huge added bonus in this journey, for us as animal lovers, is that you get to have the company of the owners’ pets too.

With 5 great house sits booked on the Trustedhousesitters website, on the 31st October 2019 – feeling super excited –  we flew out to Los Angeles.  We had 24 nights in California before our first house sit began in San Francisco, so as soon as we arrived in LA airport, with our car rental booked, we set off up the iconic Pacific Highway Route 1 – the start of our leisurely 16 day road trip visiting all the iconic Tourist locations we had so wanted to see before any house sitting began.

At the end of our road trip we drove down to San Diego as we still had a week before our first house sit began  – read here about our week in  San Diego

Our first house/pet sit began 23rd November with adorable 18 month old Samoyed – Mookie in San Francisco. This house sit meant we had 10 nights accommodation free in San Francisco, living in a modern 4 bedroom house in a great location very close to Ocean beach and Golden Gate Park.  Mookie loved to travel with us as we explored the City, including Fisherman’s Wharf and PIER 39 with views of Alcatraz, Union Square, Mission District, Haight-Ashbury.

Our second house sit was 8 nights with sweet, very shy, Poodle Julian in San Rafael, just a little further North of San Fran.   He loved walking  into town with us and it was a lovely lazy week for us and great just living like a local. We had a drive to Stinson beach with him and a day out to the nearby beautiful bayside town of Sausalito that Julian’s owners had recommended to visit. We stayed with the owners the night before the sit, they cooked a lovely meal for us and left us their car to use. The have become great friends.

Our next house sit was  further North, in the ‘gold rush’ town of Placerville, caring for Suni the cat and 3 hens with big personalities. Most morning we had a visit from the Wild Black Turkey crew!

 It was during this sit that we were able to drive to Lake Tahoe.  We got up early and with the pets all fed and settled we had time enough to drive all around the lake, stopping to take in the beautiful snowy scenery of the Nevada mountains, the stunning views of Emerald Bay lake, walking around Incline village and sitting at Secret Cove Beach.   As we left in the evening we passed the South Tahoe ski resorts vibrant and colourful getting ready for the Après-ski mood. This was definitely a dream come true for us to visit Lake Tahoe.

After a leisurely 3 day coastal drive down to LA again, taking in Malibu as we went, where of course we had to stop and nose at the awesome beach front houses, we arrived at Venice beach for our Christmas and New Year house sit.  A lovely modern house just 5 minutes walk to the beach, with cats x 2, Cashmere and Smudge. With these two easy cats we were able to explore Venice and more of Los Angeles –  including Beverley Hills, Hollywood and Rodeo Drive.

We left our Venice Beach house/pet sit on the 4th January and then had another break in our house sitting calendar, so we took the opportunity to visit Death Valley. 

We collected our car rental and drove over to Ridgecrest for an overnight stay and then we headed on towards Death Valley.   As we drove closer to the California/Nevada border our views of the Shoshone mountains alongside the barren desert landscape were pretty spectacular.

We had booked a Motel at Pahrump, in the heart of the Mojave Dessert,  but as our route actually took us to Death Valley side first and arriving at mid-day,  we were able to spend a half day in the Valley getting a feel for where the main iconic sites were, chatting to the Wardens, collecting maps etc.  We then drove to our Motel, great room with restaurant attached and friendly owners.   It was about an hour away from Death Valley, anything closer was double in price, this suited us great.

We stayed in Pahrump for 3 nights which gave us 2 further full days in Death Valley.  The weather was great for us, mostly blue sky days and what an amazing place Death Valley is.   It really is sheer beauty around every corner.  The colour palette of Death Valley is mind blowing.  From the entrance to exit there are picture perfect landscapes and just driving around there were so many breathtaking views.  Snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains, desert plains, massive craggy rocks and canyons, the colourful 8 mile loop of Artist’s Palette and Artist’s Drive, the massive Mesquite Sand dunes, Zabriskie Point for amazing views over the rocks and canyons and the best place to see the sunset.  The Badwater salt basin, 282 feet below sea level – it was like nothing we had ever seen before.  Dantés View was closed at the time of our visit.  We pinch ourselves that we have been able to visit this amazing place, for sure Death Valley will be high on our list of the most beautiful places we have ever seen.

After Death Valley we drove down to beautiful Palm Springs as we still had 7 nights before our next house/pet sit.  We got a real bargain with our Palm Springs Accommodation in a great location, really comfortable rooms and the same brilliant rates all year round. Palm Springs is in the Sonoran desert region of the Coachella Valley.  The City is surrounded by mountains and towering palm trees can be seen everywhere.  Palm Springs has an upmarket feel, the main central street is full of great little restaurants and cocktail bars and boutique shops and gift shops etc.  The coffee shops are a great place to sit in the sun and people watch. We loved the very popular Thursday evening VillageFest – stalls of arts, crafts, farmers market, hot and cold food vendors.  We had some great food.

Our next house sit was back to the coast of LA, in Santa Monica.  We were just 10 minutes walk to the beach, caring for Kai the German Shepherd/Pit bull cross.  This was one of our most challenging sits but in the end our most rewarding.

Santa Monica has a beautiful long sandy beach and here you get to see views of the glorious  sunsets over the Pacific. This is where you head to if you live in LA to get away from city life. We checked out the average nights cost to stay in Santa Monica if we weren’t house sitting with free rent and it was well over $120/night. The carnival atmosphere along the beach areas is vibrant especially on the central beach Pier – this is where iconic Route 66 finishes. The beach next to the Pier is where the original Muscle Beach was located and it’s still the venue for beach work outs and practicing acrobats – what a location for an outside gym!

Downtown Santa Monica has a classy feel with a large open air shopping Mall and a pedestrianised smart 3rd Street Promenade. At the weekends talented buskers/artists perform here, hoping to get spotted by the LA entertainment world. There’s a twice weekly Farmer’s Market, it’s very popular!

After Santa Monica we headed to the nearby quieter beach resort of Redondo, checking into Moonlite Inn for our final 3 nights before leaving the California on 28th January 2020.   Redondo has a beautiful long sandy beach and again you can see, as most of the California coast, amazing colourful sunsets over the sea.  Yep, we’ve had our fair share of superb California sunsets.

We had 3 lazy days walking the beach, watching the pelicans on the rocks, reminiscing about all our amazing times as we had travelled around California and pinching ourselves that we had made it all happen and it had been so much fun.  All the places we had seen, the adorable pets we had cared for and the lovely people we had met.  It was all so much more fun than we had ever dared to hope it would be. 

Spending all this time in California and visiting so many amazing locations would never have been possible without joining Trustedhousesitters and having the opportunity to stay in owners homes exchanging our care of their home and pets for free accommodation.

We are now house sitting in Spain – living in a beautiful villa with pool in Javea, caring for adorable Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Tully and Tizer.  

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Emerald Bay View Point

Whistle Stop Tour Of Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

Thinking of visiting Lake Tahoe, well don’t hesitate as its a stunning location! Here’s the results of our whistle stop tour around Lake Tahoe in a day.

Our start point was South Lake Tahoe, located on the southern edge of the Lake, a bustling town with all the amenities you could need for a great summer or winter holiday. Lots of accommodation, great shopping, ski resort and lots of options for water sports.

South Lake Tahoe Sign
Arriving in South Lake Tahoe
South Lake Tahoe Views
South Lake Tahoe Views

Driving along the lakeside scenic road going anti-clockwise our first stop we headed towards Emerald Bay View Point and State Park.

The scenic drive towards Emerald Bay
The Scenic Drive Towards Emerald Bay
Emerald Bay View Point
Lake Tahoe Scenic Drive
Lake Tahoe Route 89 is Definitely A Scenic Drive
Route 89 Towards Tahoe City
Route 89 Towards Tahoe City

Continue north on road 89 and you’ll reach Tahoe City, lined with shops and restaurants. Popular as a winter destination it has some lovely cross country ski tracks and popular ski resorts including the Sugar Bowl, while in summer the lake comes to life with sailing, canoeing and swimming.

Tahoe City
Arriving At Tahoe City
Heading Towards North Lake Tahoe and Incline Village

Continue north from Tahoe City and you’ll pass Kings Beach as you head towards very popular Incline Village really popular with skiers due to its proximity to Diamond Peak Ski Resort. It also looks out over Crystal Bay putting it right up there as an all year round holiday hotspot.

Towards Incline Village

As you reach Incline Village you start your journey down the other side of the lake. Popular scenic stops on route include Sand Harbor Beach, Bonsai Rock Trailhead and Secret Cove.

Secret Cove in The Late Afternoon Sun
Secret Cove in The Late Afternoon Sun
East Shore Views
East Shore Views

The road heads away from the lake for a while and passes Tahoe Nevada State Park, Spooner Lake, East Shore Forest. Before picking up Lincoln Highway taking you through Montreal Canyon back towards the lake.

Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park
Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park
Lake Tahoe Beach Views

Continue along Lincoln Highway south along the lakeside and you’ll find yourself back in South Lake Tahoe.

South Lake Tahoe At Dusk
South Lake Tahoe At Dusk
South Lake Tahoe Views
South Lake Tahoe Views
South Lake Tahoe Lakeside

Allow a good 3 or 4 hours to drive round the lake. It took us 5 hours with 3 or 4 stops for photos, coffee and a half hour walk along the lakeside. Its a really lovely drive and we could have made more stops if we had more time, but we wanted to get back to South Lake Tahoe for sunset.

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Venice, California

Venice Beach So What’s It Really Like

Venice, California
Welcome to Venice, California!

We were excited to be spending Christmas and New Year in Venice Beach, we’d been pretty lucky to be chosen for the sit from quite a few applicants and would be caring for 2 easy cats for the owners. We headed straight down from our house sit in Placerville via Pacific Highway 1.

Tip: To give yourself the best chance of getting some amazing sits like this one in Venice Beach take a look at our post on Joining Trusted House Sitters, full of tips on how to stand out above the crowds!

We had the use of the owners lovely 3 bedroom home just a 20 minute walk from Venice Beach Boardwalk. A pretty good location to explore Venice and nearby Santa Monica.

Meet Smudge and Cashmere, our Venice Pet Sitting Buddies!

Venice Beach was not quite what we expected, or should we say not like the photos depicted. First impression of the boardwalk was of a mix of graffiti, an abundance of clothing stores, fast food outlets and we feel we have to mention it, the numerous homeless people encamped along the boardwalk. We only mention this as we want to portray and honest version of our stay in Venice. We also feel very sorry that our fellow humans have been put in a position that they have to live on the streets. We’d be very interested to here anyone else’s first impression of Venice Beach, please feel free to drop us a comment at the bottom of this blog.

Having given our first impression, we have to say that our impression did change the longer we stayed in Venice, so please read on!

Venice Beach Promenade
Venice Beach Promenade!

Second impression was a little different once we had googled a little more about Venice Beach. We found words like, “interesting”, “eclectic” and “crazy” and started build an idea of exactly what Venice Beach was all about. In summary it really is an unusual place and a really great place to people watch!

Graffiti Art Venice Beach
Just one of some of the amazing graffiti art around Venice Beach!

Venice does actually pay homage to its Italian name sake, as it has a section of canals at one end of the town, colourful buildings, lots of rather unique art and certainly a lot of unusual characters who you’ll regularly see on the boardwalk.

Venice Canals California
Venice Canals in California!

The beach is pretty amazing, stretching as far as the eye can see, its attached to Santa Monica at one end and encompasses Marina del Rey at the other. If you walk toward Marina del Rey along the boardwalk you’ll eventually hit one of the best parts of the beach in my opinion, just last the pier and away from the hustle and bustle of Venice you’ll find a beautiful stretch of sand fringed by some rather unique houses and apartment buildings. Head the other way towards Santa Monica, past Muscle Beach and the rather should we say unique part of Venice boardwalk, you’ll reach the first part of Santa Monica where you can almost feel the different vibe!

View of Venice Beach
Venice Beach and the Boardwalk!

So what about some brunch while in Venice? Well, like many travellers we headed to Egg Slut, which is located just by the Venice Sign. We grabbed a couple of Bacon, Egg and Cheese to go. For some reason they didn’t serve coffee after 11.30am, so we headed down the boardwalk to Starbucks!

Eggslut Venice Beach
Two of the biggest Eggsluts you've ever seen!

One more thing before you go. Be sure to head down to the beach at dusk, as Venice is known for having some pretty amazing sunsets!

Venice Beach Sunset
Beautiful sunset at Venice Beach!

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Exploring Hangman Town Now Known As Placerville

Placerville or as it was called in the old days Hangman Town

Our California house sitting journey has take us to Hangman Town known today as Placerville. An old gold mining town with a very interesting past, particularly for a number of criminals hanged from a tree for their crimes way back in the 1840’s and 50’s hence it used to be called Hangman Town.

Tip: To give yourself the best chance of getting some amazing sits like this one in Placerville take a look at our post on Joining Trusted House Sitters, full of tips on how to stand out above the crowds!

Our accommodation for the week was house sitting for a couple who had a property up in the hills with lots of land looking over the town and we had the pleasure of caring for their cat called Suni and three very characterful chickens.

Placerville Pet Sitting
Pet Sitting Our Three Feathered Friends

Placerville retains its old gold mining town charm and feels a bit like going back in time when you head down into the main street. With its bell tower in the square and reminder of its Hangtown past with the local ice cream parlour still having a noose hanging from its top floor. Couple this with main the street full of shops with old fashioned signs and four wheel drives signifying that you really are up in the hills, makes this a real experience of imagining how it was back in the gold rush era.

Hangman Tree now days an ice cream parlour!

Our favourite coffee stop was Placerville Coffee Depot located at the end of Main Street and Hog Wild BBQ provided us with a great meal, check them out if you like ribs, chicken or pulled pork.

We were visiting in December and amazed at the number of shops specialising in Christmas ornaments and decorations. It looked as if they sold them all year round, really pretty to look round but amazing to think that people are buying Christmas decorations all year round!

Placerville Town Centre
Placerville Town Centre

For food shopping you’ll need to head to the other end of town which felt like you were going to another town all together, its a good couple of miles along Placerville Drive to Raley’s Supermarket or take the main highway to Perks Corner and you’ll find a Safeway Store.

For the cheapest petrol in town head for Fuel 4 Less at the end of Main Street.

Parking in Placerville is pretty good too, roadside parking and a few car parks, all offer 2 hours free parking before they start charging. Plenty long enough to explore the town and grab a coffee.

Haircut in Placerville
Jonathan getting a trim at the one of a kind Barbers Shop in Placerville, best place to find out all the local gossip!

One of the main reasons for us taking the house sit out in Placerville was the opportunity to take a day trip to Lake Tahoe. Its a must go place for fabulous scenery, good skiing and water sports, really good hiking spots and great places to eat and drink.

Lake Tahoe
Beautiful Lake Tahoe

We took the stunning scenic route 50 through Eldorado Forest to South Lake Tahoe. Talk about a stroke of luck as we had heard about a winter storm a few days before we arrived in Placerville and half expected the road to be closed or snow chains needed. But we had blue sky, clear roads and snow on the trees. It was just like one of those scenic drives you only ever dream of doing. Simply beautiful!

Winter Drive to Lake Tahoe
The stunning drive to Lake Tahoe

After about an hours drive we reached South Lake Tahoe, a really popular town boasting ski resorts and a fabulous lakeside location, providing what can only be described as paradise for water sports and winter sports lovers!

Our plan was to drive the 72 miles around the lake, and we decided to go anti clockwise due to the position of the sun for photos. We set of on the 89 towards Tahoe City.

Winter in Lake Tahoe
Jonathan trying to capture the beauty of Lake Tahoe

First stop was the Emerald Bay View Point for what has to be one of the best views of Lake Tahoe. There are a few view points where you can capture panoramas of the mountains and lake. We hiked out through the snow to a cliff top overlooking the lake which took some doing, but we had it to ourselves and captured what we thought was the perfect selfie.  After a long hike back to the car, we set off heading further north, shortly arriving at the official Emerald Bay View point with a really easy walk to get the perfect selfie! We drove past it muttering!

Emerald Bay View Point
The most photographed point at Lake Tahoe - Emerald Bay View Point

Second stop was Tahoe City, a waterfront location and plenty of shops, but not a decent coffee shop in sight, so we headed further north!

Coffee Lake Tahoe
One of the most scenic coffee stops ever!

Third stop was incline village where we hunted down a Starbucks to takeaway. Incline village is pretty big actually and has some fabulous houses and a great place to pay a visit to Lake Tahoe State Park and San Harbour, which were our next stop, the perfect spot to sit on the rocks and drink takeaway coffee!  There is a really nice footpath walk by the side of the lake at Secret Harbor and some great photo opportunities at Secret Cove and Chimney Beach.

Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park!

Heading back down to the southern part of the lake taking the 28 and then on to the 50 we passed through Nevada State Park, East Shore Forest and Zephyr Cove Park as we return to our start point at South Lake Tahoe just as the sunset. From the lakeside we could watch the last few skiers taking their last run down the mountain at the Heavenly Ski Resort while watching the sun set over the lake and mountains in the other direction. A great finish to a fantastic day!

South Lake Tahoe - ski runs in the background taken from the lakeside!

We had a great week staying at Placerville, drinking coffee on the porch while feeding the chickens and caring for their sweet kitty. We even had a couple of visits from the local wild black turkeys that roam the area.

Placerville A Visit From Wild Turkeys
A visit from the wild turkeys in the back garden of the house!

In summary we found Placerville a beautiful place to spend a week. The highlight was definitely the day trip to Lake Tahoe, and we really recommend taking the time to try and get up to the lake if you are visiting California, its well worth the drive, so much so that we would love to return and stay down by the lake if ever a house sit came up down there, we are keeping our eye out for one!

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Aroma Cafe San Rafael

7 Days House Sitting in San Rafael, California

San Rafael Pet Sitting

Having read quite a bit about how lovely San Rafael was, we were pretty excited to be spending a week in town caring for 6 year old Julian the poodle. So we headed straight up from our house sit in San Francisco by taxi arriving at the owners home the night before they flew out for their holiday. Julian was a great pup and joined us for coffee downtown, took us on his favourite walks in the hills looking over San Rafael and had the most amazing trip to the beach were he just couldn’t contain his excitement.

Tip: To give yourself the best chance of getting some amazing sits like this one in San Rafael take a look at our post on Joining Trusted House Sitters, full of tips on how to stand out above the crowds!

We had the use of the owners lovely home in the hills overlooking San Rafael, just a 20 minute walk from the centre of town, supermarkets and cafes. The owners were kind enough to leave us their car so we could explore the area further and take Julian to the beach.

Our Beautiful Home For The Week

San Rafael is a bustling town and has a relaxing feel in the town centre with a great selection of boutique shops, coffee houses, restaurants, as well as Wholefoods, Safeway and Trader Joe’s Supermarkets. A popular commute to San Francisco and Oakland its roads can be really busy at rush hour times, but the town itself never felt crowded.

Our regular coffee house for the week was Aroma Cafe, where we could sit outside with Julian, people watching in the main street. Good food and coffee, it was always really busy which was a good sign that we picked one of the best day time eateries in town.

If you’re looking to dine out in the evening, check out Sol Food serving some really good Puerto Rican dishes and highly recommended by the home owners.

Aroma Cafe San Rafael
Aroma Cafe, San Rafael

We found a great place for dog walking was up in the hills at Mountain Park which had beautiful views over the town and out towards Richmond Bridge the gateway to Oakland. Boyd Memorial Park is also a nice place for a walk or just to relax if the sun is shining.

Julian Walk
Mountain Park, San Raphael

We had the opportunity to take Julian on a day trip to the beach. We headed up into the hills past Fairfax, Nicasio and through to Point Reyes Station, a lovely drive in itself with mountain, lake and forest views on route. From Point Reyes we took Highway 1 down to beautiful Stinson Beach where we took Julian for a long walk and he absolutely loved it. We then took a sunset drive further down Highway 1 past Muir Beach and back to 101 just above Marin City and headed back north to San Raphael.

Stinson Beach
Stinson Beach

If you have the opportunity to travel further afield than just San Raphael town, then we highly recommend a trip out to Sausalito. Head just 15 minutes south on Highway 101 to this beautiful coastal town, which has some lovely restaurants, good coffee and deli shops and a range of unique shops. A great place for a stroll along the waterfront. You can also catch a ferry to San Francisco from here too.

Sausalito, California
Sausalito, California

In summary we found San Raphael a nice place to spend a week. We recommend you have the opportunity to explore the surrounding area to really benefit from a stay in this location. The downside for us was the traffic, the 101 does get very congested and was a bit of a pain when we came back from the beach and when we visited Sausalito.

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Mookie in San Francisco

Pets Sitting in San Francisco With Mookie The Samoyed

Mookie in San Francisco
We have been lucky enough to have the chance to visit San Francisco all thanks to pet sitting. Our live in buddy for 10 days was Mookie the Samoyed. Just 1 and a half years old and full of energy, Mookie showed us the sights of Sunset District, his favourite Ocean Beach walk and all his mates down in the dog park at Stern Grove.
Tip: To give yourself the best chance of getting some amazing sits like this one in San Francisco take a look at our post on Joining Trusted House Sitters, full of tips on how to stand out above the crowds!
We had the use of the owners beautiful home in the heart of Sunset District, just a mile from the beach and a short walk to supermarkets and restaurants. The owners were kind enough to leave us their car so we could explore the area further and take Mookie to some of his favourite places.
Mookie in the Car
Mookie Seeing If His Mates Were At The Beach!

Ocean Beach

A beautiful long sandy beach that welcomes dogs, the beach stretches from past Golden Gate Park to the end of San Francisco Zoo. Its a popular beach for surfers and has plenty of roadside parking. Mookie loved it here, chasing sticks, digging in the sand and playing with passing dogs.
Tip: Make sure to head to the beach for Sunset, you can get some great photos and watch the sunset while sitting on the sand dunes.
Mookie at the Beach
Amazing Sunset With Mookie at The Beach!

Stern Grove

Spanning over 30 acres Stern Grove Recreational Park is a great place for dogs as it has a nice dog park popular with the locals. Located in Sunset District it was just a few minutes drive from the house and one of Mookie’s favourite places. We took him to the park in the mornings as this was when his best friends a lively Alsatian, a Springer Spaniel and a baby French Bulldog were at the park. He couldn’t resist a paddle in Pine Lake one of three lakes in the park.

Tip: Keep an eye out for the dates of Stern Grove Festival, a free event of weekly concerts and performances held at the outdoor amphitheatre.

On Our Way to Stern Grove Dog Park!

Downtown San Francisco

Unfortunately we were unable to take Mookie downtown as he wasn’t very keen on the crowds and traffic. The bus stop was conveniently located at the end of the road and the owners had said that the traffic and parking were both horrendous down town, so as we didn’t have Mookie with us we opted for the bus. We ordered a $5 all day ticket using the MuniMoblile App giving us access to all buses. A 50 minute bus journey from Sunset to Downtown, a quick change of bus and then down to Fisherman’s Wharf. 
The Wharf is lined with shops and restaurants, make sure you walk as far as Pier 39, bustling with great places to eat, a variety of shops and a great atmosphere. If you fancy a boat trip under Golden Gate Bridge or a excursion to Alcatraz, then you can book them down at the wharf or during the busy months probably a good idea to book online.
Tip: We had lunch at Chowders on Pier 39, a bustling little restaurant serving great Clam Chowder, Fish and Chips and really good prawn cocktail. We highly recommend the Chowder, they serve both red and white, we opted for the white!
After lunch we took a walk up the steep hill at Hyde Street to take a look at the famous crooked street features 8 hairpin turns. You can take the Tram up the street if hill walking isn’t your thing!
Before we headed home to Mookie we had time to take a bus up to China Town to pick up some cheap fruit and veg. From here we could walk to Union Square shopping district, home to stores including Macy’s, Bloomingdales and H&M. From here we picked up the No.7 bus back to Sunset District.
Fishermans Wharf San Francisco
Pier 39 at Fishermans Wharf, San Francisco!

Best Views Of Golden Gate Bridge

We just had to have a selfie at Golden Gate Bridge, so did a little research and found out that there are a few places you can get a good view from. We took the scenic drive from Sunset District around Sea Cliff. We stopped at Baker Beach to walk Mookie and had a picture with him on the beach and Golden Gate Bridge. We then drove on to Golden Gate Lookout for a selfie, but actually found that the photos on the beach had a better angle of the bridge.

Selfie Of Golden Gate Bridge
Selfie At Golden Gate Bridge

Funston Beach and Park

A little gem just south of San Francisco Zoo and opposite Lake Merced, Funston Park is a great place to take the dog, with lovely walking paths following Sunset, Chip or Horse Trail. Sheltered by pine trees and with beautiful ocean views from some areas of the walking trails it really is an idyllic area. A popular hand gliding site too.

Funston Beach Trail takes you down a steep path which accesses the beach. A beautiful stretch of beach, when we visited we had the whole beach to ourselves. There is a car park at the southern end of the park.

This was one of Mookie’s favourite places to go!

Funston Beach
Mookie Having A Great Time With New Friends At Funston Park And Beach

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park is huge measuring 1,017 acres and is located at the north end of Sunset District and really popular it boast within the park a golf course, an angling club, a dog training area, polo field, pedal and rowing boat hire, botanical gardens, Japanese tea garden, a 10,000 seat sports stadium, lots of picnic areas, two dutch windmill, numerous lakes and footpaths, a herd of bison and we even came across a gaze of raccoons!

Free parking is available on Ocean Beach car park at the bottom end of the park (shuttle service operates between the free parking lot at Ocean Beach and major attractions within the park. The shuttle runs every 15 to 20 minutes from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and major holidays. Limited time parking can be found on many roadside locations in the park and on the outskirts. Underground paid parking is available at The Music Concourse on the north side of the park at 10th Avenue and Fulton Street. More paid parking is available at Kezar Stadium located near the Stanyan Street entrance to the park open all week and Millberry Union on Parnassus Street at weekends only.

Dutch Windmill Golden Gate Park
Dutch Windmill Golden Gate Park!
Lovely Footpath Walks in Golden Gate Park!

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san diego sign

7 Days in San Diego

San Diego is a major city in southern California and we were really excited to visit it as so many travellers had told us it was a great place to be in and we weren’t disappointed with our 7 days stay.  With its all year round mild climate, smart harbour, waterfront promenade, beach, great restaurants, green park areas, zoo and much more –  what’s not to love – and we found the San Diegans to be ultra friendly!  Our visit was mid November and we had super weather in the 70’s.

We stayed in the lively Gaslamp Quarter.  Mostly this area is known as a popular hub for great nightlife, restaurants and cocktail bars.  Walking among the colourful evening lights there is a real vibrant buzz of entertainment and at the same time a definite feel of a friendly community.  

One of our favourite walks was strolling down to Embarcadero (Spanish for wharf)  to the super smart Marina area and Seaport Village.  Looking back behind us is the San Diego skyline.  Below is the San Diego Bay, a natural Harbour and deep water Port.

Walking further along the waterfront we pass through Seaport Village with its chic stores, cafes, book stores,  pretty eateries and at the weekend there is free good live entertainment.  It’s lit up very prettily at night and an evening waterfront walk here really is a delight.   A great place to dine or sip a cocktail while watching the sun going down. The sunsets here are quite spectacular reflecting onto the waters. 

Also at the Seaport district is  ‘The Headquarters’  – a spacious, open air designed space- it is the  former headquarters to the San Diego Police Department and now an exciting new dining and retail destination.    You can find speciality shops and world class restaurants.  The buildings are a rich mix of  designs – Spanish Revival, Mediterranean Revival, Pueblo Revival and Classical Revival .

In Downtown we came across Little Italy (it seemed to us more laid back than the Gaslamp area).  Little Italy is a trendy, friendly neighbourhood, packed with restaurants – some high end gourmet, cocktail bars, gastropubs, and coffee shops and a great juice bar we found.  Every Saturday there is an excellent Farmers Market.  

On our last full day we walked to Bilbao Park.  This huge green park space is totally free to roam and explore, no entry fee.  The Park  has lots to offer and was much bigger than we imagined.  It is filled with museums – 15 in total we think, including the Museum of Man and The San Diego Museum of Art and the Fleece Science Centre. You can walk around the beautiful gardens, there are walking trails and 3 dog parks. The Botanical Garden building is beautiful and unusual, it’s located in the heart of the Park – it has a large lily pond in front of it. Apparently over 2,000 plants are housed here in the Botanical building.

You have to admire the gorgeous architecture in the Park  (unfortunately for us, visiting in the quieter season, many of the buildings at this time were having work carried out so scaffolding was up).  There are cafes and restaurants – we could see the Prado restaurant was popular.  Below is The Japanese Friendship Garden, it is beautiful to walk through and visit the Tea Pavilion.


Dates of stay: 15th to 23rd November 

Stayed at San Diego Downtown Lodge – priced at $632 USD for the week

Review: Comfortable accommodation, recently refurbished, coffee and ice in reception, good WIFI reception, daily housekeeping, microwave and fridge in room. Good location about 15 to 20 minute walk from Gaslamp District. A bit of road noise! We’d recommend it based on price and location.

Thank you for visiting our Blog, we would really appreciate your comments,  your thoughts on it,  or your experiences to share and if you have any questions.  There is a comment box at the end of this blog page and we will be so happy to get back to you, to answer and to give any help/advice we can.

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7 Days in San Diego
A Guide To Visiting San Diego

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California Road Trip

16 Day, 2629 Mile, Road Trip Through California, Las Vegas and The Grand Canyon

California Road Trip

We completed the most amazing 2,629 mile road trip through California including a hop into Nevada and Arizona. Taking in iconic sites as we drove along the scenic Pacific Highway 1 to Monterey and Carmel, Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon, Sequoia National Park, Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas and The Grand Canyon, before heading back to Los Angeles on Route 66.

We’d like to share the journey with you, including all the costs to complete the trip which we hope may inspire you to follow our route or some of it taking in some of the most outstanding natural beauty, iconic sites and scenery the USA has to offer. Please note we took the trip in 2019, so please consider this when looking at our costings as they may well have increased since then, but it should give you a guide at least.

Glacier Point Yosemite
Hiking at Glacier Point!

Summary of the all important total cost for the trip (We’ll break these costs down within the blog for each leg of the journey)

Return Flights:  £978
Car Hire:  £267
Accommodation:  £855
Petrol:  £310
Sightseeing Tickets:  £144
Food:  £520

Total Cost:  £3074

Please Note: We have not included travel insurance in the total cost (as we have a worldwide policy because we will be travelling to other countries). Quotes for travel insurance our individual, you can find many companies offering reasonable rates online.

Trip Dates: 31st October to 15th November 2019

A few general tips about our costs:

Flights: These were booked with Norwegian Air who in our view are the best budget long haul flight provider at the moment. We paid £488 Gatwick to Los Angeles and £490 Los Angeles to Gatwick. Latest price for return flights Gatwick/Los Angeles (with 20kg hold luggage) in February as low as £770 return total cost for 2 people. Bargain!   *** UPDATED 2022 – Unfortunately Norwegian Air are no longer flying long haul routes since the pandemic. Hopefully another company will take on a budget long haul option for us travellers!

Car Hire: We booked this really early when Car Rentals were offering up to 50% discounts. Great thing we found is that insurance is fully comprehensive and extra driver is free. Worry free car hire as they call it. Keep your eye out for the bargains!

Accommodation: Book as early as possible and always on free cancellation. We couldn’t find better prices than Booking.com and nearly all rooms can be booked and cancelled for free, giving us the opportunity to swap accommodation if a better deal comes up nearer the time, which quite often did. Sign up with them and after booking with them for a while you will gain genius status with regular offers of up to 15% discounts, free breakfast, room upgrades and cool stuff like that!  We researched our motel rooms well,  wanting the best prices but with good reviews on cleanliness, comfort and good bath/shower room, and decided against shared hostels, although we have nothing against them!  All having a fridge, microwave and coffee maker, all had super huge comfy beds/pillows.

Petrol: We estimated we would spend £220 on fuel but ended up spending £310. We under estimated both the amount of miles we would do but more the cost per gallon in different locations (we assumed we would do 2500 miles but we in fact covered 2629) and the price of fuel ranged from $3.40 to $4.65 right up to $7.95 – which we had to pay in the Mojave Dessert when we nearly ran out – we won’t make that mistake again!

Sightseeing Tickets: One of the best purchases we made was the America The Beautiful Annual Pass. Costing us $80 for the year it gives you access to all the National Parks in America including Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. Entry for many of the parks can be as much as $35 per car. We visited National Parks on 5 occasions each costing $35 dollars to enter (works out we would have spent $175 on entry fees – we saved $85 and have the pass for the rest of the year if we return). Obviously you’ll have to work out how many parks you are going to visit to see if its better value (Visit more than two and its a saving!).
Tip: Ask for the pass at the first National Park you visit (its not always visible on the charge board when you arrive at the park, so make sure you ask for it).
Our other sightseeing cost was a whale watching trip in Monterey. We paid full price as it was spur of the moment (as blue whales had been spotted earlier in the day) and we weren’t disappointed,we saw 4!  You can often find Whale Watching Tickets cheaper bookable in advance on Groupon which we often use for deals.

Food: This deserves a mention as everyone will have different ideas about a food budget. We can only tell you about our needs. Our total food budget for the trip was £1050 and you will see that we only spent £520. Here’s how and why we only spent this much.

How we spent this amount: We purchased a fold up cool bag, bought most of our food from Walmart or other Delis and supermarkets on route and kept food cold with ice readily available from the motels.  We also made sure we only booked a motel room that had a fridge and microwave. We only ate in restaurants 3 times, the rest of the time we made use of motel microwaves or made up our own picnic meals and ate overlooking beaches or canyons. This certainly isn’t for everyone, but we have travelled like this before, through Thailand, making our limited funds go further while always eating healthy (Julie saw to that). We can honestly say that we never felt hungry during the 16 days and we even managed to have at least 10 Starbucks coffees within our budget!  We did have quite a few rotisserie chickens, quite a few microwaved potatoes,  and along with tinned tuna and fish, bread, fruit, salad and yoghurt, we did ok.

Why we spent this amount: Simple really, to save money – which you get to spend on other things.   As a result of the saving, we were able to pay for a further 7 nights accommodation in San Diego! From where I am presently writing this blog.  It’s the only part of our budget where we could actually save money and our view is that if we have to go without a few treats of big meals in restaurants and breakfasts in Diners to allow us to see another city or location then its well worth it!
It won’t be everyone’s view and some people couldn’t manage it, but we are more than happy to give you advice or share our tips on this in greater detail. Just get in touch.

This is the route we took with accommodation at Camarillo, San Simeon, Monterey, Mariposa, Visalia, Ridgecrest, Las Vegas, Flagstaff and Barstow.

Route Map

On route visiting Santa Barbara, Solvang, Cayucos, Elephant Seal View Point, Big Sur, Carmel by the Sea, Monterey Fishermans Wharf and Cannery Row, Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, Suquoia National Park, Red Rock Canyon State Park, Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, The Grand Canyon and Route 66. 

Day 1

We arrived at Los Angeles Airport at 4.30pm after a ten and a half hour flight from London with Norwegian Air costing £488 one way for 2 tickets.

Tip: We found seats 11E and 11F were good giving us more leg room at no extra cost!

Be prepared for 2 to 3 hours to get through security. We collected the hire car costing £267 for 15 days and headed off to our first nights accommodation at Camarillo, 55 minutes from Los Angeles Airport (Take the 405 North and 101 West).

1 night stay at Days Inn Camarillo priced at $58
Review: Comfortable Bed, Nice and Clean, Coffee in Reception, Free Parking, Free Good Wifi

Day 2

Left Days Inn Camarillo via Walmart Supermarket a couple of minutes way, stocked up with food provisions for next 2/3 days ($30).

Continued our journey towards San Simeon on route 101 North.
1st stop Santa Barbara for a picnic lunch (nice beach, long walkways, free parking, picnic areas and BBQ’s).
2nd stop Solvang (pretty Danish village).
At Los Alamos we took Route 135 and then shortly after Highway 1 North
3rd Stop Cayucos –  a pretty beach side village, nice shops, restaurants and cafes. Coffee from Cayucos Gas Mini Mart (2 coffees a bargain at $4) we watched the sunset on the pier

Arrived San Simeon at 6.30pm

2 night stay at Courtesy Inn San Simeon priced at $101
Review: Comfortable Bed, Nice and Clean, Coffee in Reception, Free Parking, Free Good Wifi, Directly across the road from the beach, a Restaurant Next Door

Solvang Village, California
Solvang (A Little Danish Village in California)!

Day 3

Day exploring the San Simeon area on Highway 1.
1st stop Elephant Seal Beach view point.
2nd stop San Simeon William R. Hearst state beach for picnic lunch (nice beach and picnic area overlooking the ocean).
3rd stop spotted the elusive roaming Zebras grazing in a field close to San Simeon.
4th stop Cambria (Moonstone beach boardwalk) and then into town for good coffee at Cambria Coffee Roasting Company ($4) and food provisions at Cookie Crock Supermarket on the edge of town ($6)
Back to San Simeon to watch an awesome sunset.

Tip: Walk across Highway 1 from the motel and down to the beach to the left is a small park area with fire pits and seating in front of Cavalier Oceanfront Resort, the fire pits were all lit at night while we were there, a great place to sit and watch the sunset!

San Simeon Firepit
Watching The Sunset At San Simeon!

Day 4

Left Courtesy Inn San Simeon at 8.30am taking Highway 1 North. 

Lots of stunning scenery and view points all the way along the route (including Big Sur and Bixby Creek Bridge). Filled up with fuel on route at Gorda ($40).

Arrived Monterey at 2.30pm
2 hours free parking on some sidewalks Monday to Saturday. Free parking on most sidewalks all day Sunday!
Walked to Fishermans Wharf.

Tip: Make sure you take advantage of some of the endless little pots of Clam Chowder restaurants give away along the pier.

Took the boardwalk to Cannery Row for Starbucks Coffee ($8).
Drove to Wholefoods Supermarket at Del Monte Center for provisions ($8).
Checked in to motel.

2 night stay at Pelican Inn Monterey priced at $110
Review: Comfortable Bed, Nice and Clean, Coffee in Reception, Free Parking, Free Good Wifi, Good location for Highway 1 and downtown (1 mile from Fishermans Wharf and 500 metres from Wholefoods Supermarket

Highway 1 Big Sur Road Trip
Stunning Views - Big Sur, along Pacific Highway 1

Day 5

Day exploring the Monterey and Carmel area.
1st stop Carmel by the Sea (beautiful beach with views of Pebble Beach Golf Resort and the village centre is lined with boutique shops and cafes).
Back to Monterey and parked at Downtown East Parking Lot (Great price – $7 for the day)
2nd stop Fishermans Wharf – Whale watching trip with Monterey Whale Watching ($100 for two tickets + $2 coffee on board).
Review: Brilliant! Big Boats, Really Friendly Knowledgeable Staff, Snack Bar On Board, Free Trip if No Whale Sightings (We saw Blue Whales and Humpbacks!).

Tip: If you are travelling out of season as we were, consider booking on the day and doing the midday trip (if you head down to the Wharf an hour before around 11am you can check if they have seen whales in the morning) also be aware that out of season they sometimes don’t have a trip in the late afternoon due to lack of customers.

3rd stop Fishermans Wharf for lunch at Scales Takeaway – Clam Chowder and Burgers ($27), Good food, seating outside, great place to people watch too!
4th stop Along Sunset Drive – Take the beach front drive from the top of Cannery Row down to Asilomar State Beach (Great sunset!).

Tip: We considered doing 17 mile drive, but after researching it seemed like we’d just see views available on Sunset Drive and Highway 1. Saving us the $10 fee too which paid for our next Starbucks!

Clam Chowder Monterey Wharf
Famous Clam Chowder at Fishermans Wharf Monterey!

Day 6

Left Pelican Inn Monterey at 8.30am heading for Yosemite National Park taking Highway 1 to Watsonville, 129 to River Oaks, 101 to Gilroy, 152 towards Fairmead, 59 to Merced and the 140 to Mariposa. 

1st stop Gilroy to fill up with fuel ($37) and Walmart Superstore for provisions ($30).

2nd stop Yosemite National Park Entrance arrived at 2pm.
Purchased an America The Beautiful Pass ($80). Giving access to all National Parks in America for 12 months including Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia and Grand Canyon.

Took in the stunning scenery, lovely walks and watched the sunset before heading out of the park to our motel at Mariposa (1 hour drive from the park entrance).

2 night stay at Miners Inn Mariposa priced at $182
Review: Breakfast Included, Comfortable Bed, Nice and Clean, Free Parking, Free Good Wifi, Well Priced Accommodation For The Area

El Capitan Yosemite
Trying To Capture The Mighty El Capitan!

Day 7

A full day in Yosemite National Park (free entry due to purchasing the annual pass).

Walked the El Capitan trail and the hike up to Vernal and Nevada waterfalls at the other end of the park.
Picnic lunch at one of the most scenic part of the valley (along Ahwahnee Drive).
Left the valley at 2pm for the 1 hour drive up to Glacier Point to watch the sunset.
Stopped back down in the valley at El Capitan to watch the climbers on the wall at night (a very unusual experience).

Back to Mariposa and headed to the best Taco Truck in town for supper ($15)

Tip: If you like Mexican takeaway head to Taco Sonora for excellent Burritos located on Coakley Circle in Mariposa!

Yosemite Valley
The Perfect Spot in Yosemite Valley For A Picnic Lunch!

Day 8

Left Miners Inn Mariposa at 9am heading for Kings Canyon National Park taking the 49 South to Oakhurst, 41 South to Fresno and the 180 to Kings Canyon. 

1st stop Mariposa town to fill up with fuel ($45) and Pioneer supermarket for provisions ($11).

2nd stop Kings Canyon National Park (free entry due to purchasing the annual pass) arrived at 1pm.

Tip: Make sure you have plenty of fuel for the trips in to the National Parks as there are no fuel stations in the park and the roads are slow, long and elevated.

Took the 180 around to Junction View for great views down to the Canyon and then drove to the car park at Kings Canyon Visitor Centre and took the footpath walk to The General Grant Tree (3rd largest tree in the world). Coffee back at the visitor centre ($3).
Headed to our motel in Visalia (great sunset drive on the way out of the park).

2 night stay at Lamp Liter Inn Visalia priced at $172
Review: Comfortable Bed, Nice and Clean, Coffee in Reception, Free Parking, Free Good Wifi

Kings Canyon National Park
Entering Kings Canyon National Park!

Day 9

Took the 45 minute drive from Visalia taking the 198 West to Sequoia National Park (free entry due to purchasing the annual pass).

Visited the Giant Forest.
Walked the Congress Trail to see the largest tree in the world (General Sherman).
Walked the Moro Rock Trail.
Walked the Big Trees Trail.
Fantastic sunset views on the drive back down Highway 198.

Back to Visalia and headed to Walmart for provisions ($23)

General Sherman Tree, Sequoia National Park
General Sherman - The Biggest Tree in the World!

Day 10

Left Lamp Liter Inn Visalia at 10am heading for Ridgecrest taking the 99 South to Bakersfield, 58 to Mojave and the 14 North to Ridgecrest passing Red Rock Canyon State Park. 

1st stop Visalia town to fill up with fuel ($50).

2nd stop Red Rock Canyon State Park – location for many famous films including The Mummy, Planet of the Apes, Jurassic Park and many westerns including The Outlaw.

Continued on to Ridgecrest for Starbucks coffee ($8) and then to our motel.

1 night stay at Hotel Europa Ridgecrest priced at $48
Review: Please avoid this motel as it is very poorly maintained and we would NOT recommend it! Only good thing about it was that it had a washing machine and dryer – laundry done ($4)

Red Rock Canyon State Park
Red Rock Canyon - Location For Many Famous Films!

Day 11

Left Hotel Europa Ridgecrest at 9.30am heading for Las Vegas taking the 395 South, 58 West to Barstow and the 15 to Las Vegas. 

1st stop Barstow to fill up with fuel ($25) and for Starbucks Coffee ($8).

2nd stop Las Vegas – arrived at 2.30pm – Took the iconic drive up and down the length of the strip and parked up for the all important photo at the “Welcome to Vegas” sign before checking in to our hotel. Walked from the hotel to the Bellagio Fountains and central strip area (just a 10/15 minute walk from the hotel).

Returned to the Ellis Hotel Casino and Bar for our complimentary beer, followed by fabulous steaks at the Ellis Island Restaurant ($47)

2 night stay at Ellis Island Hotel Las Vegas priced at $139
Review: Excellent hotel and highly recommended, great price, very central (less than 15 minutes walk to the Belagio Fountains), great restaurant serving really well priced and great food, really friendly little casino, free beer on arrival, free hot drinks in reception, really well maintained clean rooms, lots of free parking and free good wifi

Welcome to Las Vegas
We've Arrived in Las Vegas Baby!

Day 12

Spent the full day in Las Vegas. 

Walked to All The Main Themed Hotels including New York New York, The Bellagio, Caesars Palace, The Venetian and Paris.

Stopped for expensive Starbucks Coffee overlooking the Bellagio fountains ($11)

Watched the Volcano Erupting at The Mirage and the Fountains at the Bellagio after dark.

Walked back to Ellis Island Restaurant for fabulous salmon and burgers ($35)

Las Vegas at Night
Las Vegas - Most Impressive At Night!

Day 13

Left Ellis Island Hotel Las Vegas at 10.30am heading for Flagstaff taking the 93 South via the Hoover Dam, at Kingman taking Route 66 to Ash Fork and the 40 to Flagstaff. 

1st stop the Hoover Dam and Boulder Dam Bridge.

Tip: As you enter the Hoover Dam there is a multi story car park charging $10, if you don’t mind a few minutes walk continue driving across the dam and follow the road up the hill and you will find 3 or 4 FREE car parks.

At Kingman we had Starbucks Coffee ($8) before taking a slight detour off Route 40 on to Route 66.

Arriving at Flagstaff at 8.15pm. Filled up with petrol ($30) and provisions at Walmart ($34)

2 night stay at Budget Inn Flagstaff priced at $91
Review: Comfortable Bed, Clean, Coffee in Reception, Free Parking, Free Good Wifi

Hoover Dam
Quick Stop Off For Selfies at The Hoover Dam!

Day 14

Left Flagstaff at 8.45am for the Grand Canyon National Park taking the 180 North and the 64 North, beautiful drive! Arrived at the Grand Canyon Village at 10.30am. (free entry due to purchasing the annual pass).

Spent the full day at the Grand Canyon South Rim. Coffee ($9)
Walked the South Rim Trail and watched the sunset at the Canyon.

Back to Flagstaff and headed for Taco Bell takeaway which was an extremely poor meal ($10)

South Rim The Grand Canyon
South Rim The Grand Canyon!

Day 15

Left Flagstaff at 8.45am for Barstow taking Route 66 and Route 40 West (350 mile drive!)

Took the iconic drive along Route 66 for 100 miles (Ash Fork to Kingman). Stopped for Starbucks Coffee at Kingman ($9)

Tip: Make sure you have plenty of fuel when you leave Kingman. As the fuel stations from Kingman to Barstow are really expensive (double the price!) We found out the hard way! ($35) for less than half a tank.

Arrived at Barstow at 4pm. Checked in to our motel for the night.

1 night stay at Economy Inn Barstow priced at $45
Review: In Need Of Refurbishment, Comfortable Bed, Coffee in Reception, Free Parking, Free Wifi. Wouldn’t really recommend it unless it was much cheaper than anything else in Barstow.

Route 66
Gettin Our Kicks on Route 66!

Day 16

Left Barstow at 9am for the Los Angeles Observatory taking Route 15 South, Route 10 West and Route 5 North arriving at 11.30am.

As we were a little short of time as we had to get the hire car back to the airport we paid ($10) to park in the Observatory Car Park.

Tip: If you have time and don’t mind a 20 minute up hill walk you can park for free at the Greek Theatre car park, the car park will be closed though if there is a show on.

Left for the airport at 2pm taking Route 5 South, Route 10 West and the 405 South to the Airport, dropping the hire car off at 3.30pm.

Hollywood Sign, Los Angeles
The Iconic Hollywood Sign Photo!

Trip Summary

Total Miles Driven: 2629
Total Cost of Trip:  £3074 ($3843 USD)
Trip Highlights: Highway 1, Solvang, Elephant Seal Beach, Big Sur, Monterey and Carmel, Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon, Sequoia National Park, Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, Route 66
Trip Dates: 31st October to 15th November 2019

Thank you for visiting our Blog, we would really appreciate your comments,  your thoughts on it,  or your experiences to share and if you have any questions.  There is a comment box at the end of this blog page and we will be so happy to get back to you, to answer and to give any help/advice we can.

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Road Trip Through California, Las Vegas and Grand Canyon
California Road Trip

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A Great Idea For A 10 Day Itinerary in New York

Don’t miss a thing when you visit New York. We hope our guide to making the most of a trip to the “Big Apple” helps you see the best sites, landmarks and attractions of this amazing city.  We stayed in Lower Manhattan (China Town) as the hotel prices in the this part of the city are so much less than around Central Manhattan.

We stayed at Hotel 91 in China Town, a well priced hotel, clean, with comfortable bed, good wifi and ice machine on each floor. Some of the reviews mentioned noise from Brooklyn Bridge. We had a room with a window looking out towards the bridge and had no problems sleeping, you could just hear the trains but in no way did they disturb our sleep. We would recommend the hotel.

We found the location was perfect as we were a short walk from famous Brooklyn Bridge, China Town, Little Italy and walking distance to Battery Park and some of the best views of The Statue of Liberty. Great transport links also meant we could be in the hustle and bustle of Time Square, Rockafella Centre and the Empire State Building in just a few minutes.

The Statue of Liberty

With so much to see in New York, we would recommend a minimum of 7 days in the city, if you can manage it. Our itinerary took us 10 days of leisurely seeing all parts of the city and we hope you can pick out a few tips to help you with your planned visit weather it be a long weekend or an extended stay.

Day 1 and 2 – The Open Top Tour Bus

We booked the hop on hop off city bus from Citysightseeing which constantly drives a route covering all of the sites in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. We highly recommended this whether you are in the city for a long weekend or a longer stay, as it gives you a real snapshot of the whole city with stops at some of the most iconic spots including Battery Park, China Town, Empire State Building, Central Park, Yankee Stadium and Brooklyn. We also took the night time tour which was excellent with all the lights through Time Square and the drive across Brooklyn Bridge giving you a brilliant night view of the Manhattan skyline.

The Bright Lights of Time Square, New York

Day 3 – China Town, Little Italy and Brooklyn

Starting early gives you a real feel of local life in China Town, as the shop owners deliveries of exotic fruits and veg arrive along with the aroma of roast duck and sweet and sour greet you as you turn every corner. You can’t miss Little Italy, which is right next to China town which consists mainly of one street lined with Pasta and Pizza restaurants, but its worth a look while you are that way. The walk across Brooklyn Bridge was next on our list, close to China Town its an impressive walk with fabulous views down the Hudson.  When you reach the other side be sure to walk through Brooklyn Heights and down by the river at Brooklyn Bridge Park, where you’ll get brilliant views of the New York Skyline.

New York Skyline Views From Brooklyn

Day 4 – Battery Park and Wall Street

We started our day down at Battery Park with a return trip on the Staten Island Ferry. This little 25 minute trip each way gives you some good views of the Statue of Liberty and part of the River Hudson. Best of all the ferry is free of charge!

Our final stop of the day was a very moving visit to Ground Zero Memorial and St Paul’s Chapel of Trinity Church to pay our respects to all those that lost their lives in the 9/11 attack.

Wall Street, New York
Wall Street This Way!

Day 5 – Central Park and Time Square

We started our day taking the train (subway) to the stop close to south entrance of Central Park. A long walk through the park taking in the beautiful autumn colours and sound of music from the Chinese man playing his Erhu (a kind of violin). The Bethesda Fountain is a lovely spot to stop and relax and Bow Bridge is a pretty nice place to have a photo. We didn’t really have time but we saw quite a few people who had hired rowing boats and were spending an hour or two on the lake. Boat hire is available from The Loeb Boathouse

You can easily spend half a day in Central Park, which we did, spending a bit of time at Strawberry Fields, grabbing a fresh Pretzel from the street vendor on Central Park West and heading back through the park for a walk back down 5th Avenue towards Manhattan.

We spent the rest of the day around the Time Square area, partly because we wanted to see if we could get some cheap seats for a show that evening. We managed to get tickets for some really good seats at Phantom of The Opera (Majestic Theatre) at about 30% discount.

Tip: For great value last minute show tickets, queue up at the TKTS Time Square Booth for that evenings shows!

We found a lively sports bar to grab a bite to eat eat before the show “The Keg Room“, great atmosphere and well priced pub food. Phantom of the Opera was an excellent show.

Central Park New York
Central Park, New York

Day 6 – Rockafella and Empire State

We planned to take two high views in today. One daytime trip up to the top of the Empire State Building and a trip up the Top of The Rock at night.

We purchased tickets for both from Newyorksightseeing as they offered a deal for two at a 30% discount.

As we were visiting out of season we didn’t have much of a queue when waiting for the lifts, but if you are visiting at peak times expect delays and plan this into your day.

We highly recommend doing a day and a night trip as you get a totally different experience each time and great photo opportunities. Wrap up warm if you are going out of season as it can get pretty windy up top and pretty cold too.

Headed back to China Town for some fabulous Chinese food.

Top of The Empire State Building

Day 7 – Williamsburg Bridge, Williamsburg Neighbourhood and Soho

We spent the day exploring the Neighbourhood of Williamsburg starting with a walk across Williamsburg Bridge giving us great views down river towards Manhattan Bridge. Williamsburg has plenty of cool cafes and restaurants and a pretty relaxed feel.

We headed back over the bridge and made our way to trendy Soho for a bit of window shopping and a warm pretzel from one of the street vendors.

Williamsburg, New York
New York Skyline Views On The Way To Williamsburg

Day 8 – River Trip Up The Hudson

We researched good Hudson River Cruises and ended up settling on Circleline Sightseeing Cruises setting off from Pier 83. The cruise passed under 20 bridges and over 130 of the city’s most iconic landmarks including the full Manhattan skyline, One World Trade Centre, Brooklyn waterfront, Yankee Stadium, Gracie Mansion, George Washington Bridge, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Review: A great river cruise with really informative guide, comfortable boat with snack bar on board. Recommended.

Headed back to China Town for a really good supper at one of the local restaurants.

Statue of Liberty From The Hudson River Cruise
Statue of Liberty From The Hudson River Cruise

Day 9 – Hell’s Kitchen, Macy’s and Central Park

We had a fairly leisure day planned today with a walk up Hell’s Kitchen which has some really good restaurants, bars and pubs along 8th and 9th avenues. We ended up at Hudson River Park which has some lovely landscaped walkways offering lovely waterfront views.

We then headed to Macy’s for a bit of retail therapy. Managed to get a bargain on a lovely North Face Jacket!

Walked through Time Square again and a final evening walk in Central Park.

Bag A Bargain At Macy's
Jonathan Bags A Bargain At Macy's

Day 10 – Day At Leisure!

The beauty of a 10 day trip to New York is that it leaves you with a free day to catch anything than you didn’t get time to do or in our case a chance to spend a bit more time around Brooklyn. Followed by a Hunt for a really good New York Cheesecake Shop, research took us to Eileen’s who have been baking cheesecakes at the shop for over 40 years! We were not disappointing, it was the best cheescake we’ve ever tasted!

Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge
One More Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge!

Summary of our trip to New York:

If you are lucky enough to have 10 days to explore New York, you’ll have plenty to occupy your time and we hope our itinerary gives you a good idea of things to see and places to go. If you have a shorter period of time in the city we hope you can pick out some of the most iconic sights that we have listed and build them into your own itinerary.

Thank you for visiting our Blog, we would really appreciate your comments,  your thoughts on it,  or your experiences to share and if you have any questions.  There is a comment box at the end of this blog page and we will be so happy to get back to you, to answer and to give any help/advice we can.

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Travelling Thailand

How to Travel Thailand For 2 Months

On the 14th November 2017 we flew to Bangkok, the start of our 54 day tour of Thailand.

The 54 Day Itinary:

Bangkok – 14th November to 9th November
Pattaya – 19th November to 26th November
Bang Tao – 27th November to 3rd December
Phuket – 3rd December to 8th December
Kata – 8th December to 14th December
Phi Phi Islands – 14th December to 17th December
Krabi – 17th December to 24th December
Koh Samui – 24th December to 4th January
Surat Thani – 4th January to 5th January

Bangkok – 14th November to 9th November – (5 nights) Accommodation: MADERLA GUEST HOUSE – price 4000 THB for Room With Private Bathroom (total price) Things to See List: The Grand Palace, Floating Market, Wat Pho, Wat Traimit, Lumphini Park, China Town, Khao San.

Our location was perfect for Lumphini Park as Maderla Guest House was just a 10 minute walk away, the MRT station was also on the same road to the park, taking you into the heart of the city. Lumphini was a great place to chill and eat a bit of street food on the way back from a busy day site seeing, a quiet area of green space with a lake and home to a number of rather large Monitor Lizards. The sites of Patpong Night Market and the Skybar Bangkok were both within walking distance too!

Julie's selfie with a Monitor Lizard in Lumphini Park!

You can actually walk from Maderla, through China Town and down to the river, head along the riverside and you will eventually arrive at Wat Pho and the Reclining Buddha, walk a little further and you will reach The Grand Palace. The sites of ‘Khao San Road’ are a little further on than that, so most of the attractions are pretty central and fairly close to each other. If we didn’t feel like the long walk down to the river we picked up the MRT blue line across the road from Lumphini Park and in two stops we were pretty near the river.

A visit to The Grand Palace, pretty amazing place!

This was quite a walk and we ended up getting a ‘Tuk Tuk’ back. However, from experience, we don’t recommend getting a Tuk Tuk, as the fumes and traffic make it a very unpleasant experience, we recommend taking the MRT instead!

Our ride through Bangkok on a Tuk Tuk, not for the faint hearted and a face mask for the car fumes highly recommended!

The final thing to see on our list was a floating market. There are a few dotted around the outskirts of Bangkok and we’d done a bit of research before hand. Many people had said how packed with tourists the most popular Damnoen Saduak floating market was and the fact that it was a 100 km bus journey put us off a little. We chose Taling Chan Floating Market as it was a smaller one, still had the stalls and enough boats for the photo opportunities, but had the added attraction of always being able to get good seats on the floating restaurants and it was just 14 km from the centre of Bangkok. We weren’t disappointed, really easy to get to with a trip on the sky train across Bangkok and a quick taxi ride, enough atmosphere and stalls so you felt like you were at a floating market, great food cooked straight off the boats and to top it all off a really good boat trip up the river and back. All in all a good day out and highly recommended.

Taling Chan floating market, a great day out and some of the best prawns ever!

Travelled Bangkok to Pattaya – Taxi with ‘Toms Taxi Pattaya’ – 1200 THB one way – very decent comfortable taxi with air-con, pick up on time and safe driver – recommended!

Pattaya – 19th November to 26th November – (7 nights) Accommodation: Z BY ZING – price 4086 THB for Room With Private Bathroom (total price) – GREAT VALUE! Things to See and Do List: Jomtien Beach, Thai Massage, Walking Street, Jomtien Night Market.

We headed down to Pattaya knowing that we didn’t have too much on our list of things to see and do, so were looking forward to a bit of a relaxing week. We opted for Z by Zing which turned out to be in a great and quiet location but just a 3 minute walk to Jomtien Beach.

Tip: Take advantage of the 10 Baht bus, they run up and down the promenade and take you round to Walking Street and Pattaya Central Beach. One trip costs 10 Baht how ever far you want to go!

Great food served at one of the roadside restaurants!
Rustling up Pad Thai at the Night Market!

Jomtien Beach is OK but not one of the best in Thailand. The promenade stretches the length of the beach and there are some pretty good and very well priced restaurants along the front. We even found a bar that had a ‘Happy Hour’! There are plenty of places to get a massage, we opted for a full Thai Massage, as it was on our to do list …… most painful hour of Jonathan’s life! Jomtien night market is good and has some really cheap clothing. Some great food stalls and and they even have seating overlooking the beach where you can take your freshly cooked Pad Thai, Grilled Prawns, Snapper or anything else that takes your fancy and eat it overlooking the ocean, pretty cool!

Always got time for a bit of deep fried chicken and prawns!

Travelled Pattaya to Bangkok – Taxi with ‘Toms Taxi Pattaya’ – 1600 THB one way – very decent comfortable taxi with air-con, pick up on time and safe driver – recommended!

Bangkok – 26th November to 27th November – (1 night) Accommodation: THIP MANSION DON MUENG AIRPORT – price 890 THB for Room With Private Bathroom (total price) Review: Nice modern room, good wifi, great bathroom. Walking distance to the airport and great little roadside restaurants. Recommended!

Travelled By Air – Flight from Don Mueang Airport (DMK) to Phuket (HKT) – total 1000 THB per person – Great little airline and bargain flight tickets – not sure how they do it so cheaply!

Phuket Airport to Bang Tao – Pre-booked Taxi with ‘Hopper Taxi’ – 880 THB one way – very decent comfortable taxi with air-con, pick up on time and safe driver – recommended!

Bang Tao – 27th November to 3rd December – (6 nights) Accommodation: BANGTAO GUEST HOUSE – price 5590 THB for Room With Private Bathroom (total price) Things to See and Do List: Bang Tao Beach, Chang Thale Beach, Banana Beach, Naithon Beach, Surin Beach, Wat Phra Nang Sang, Tonsai Waterfall, Bang Tao Night Market.

Our accommodation at Bangtao Guest House was in a great location for the price, we could walk to beautiful Bang Tao beach in 20 minutes and a 10 minute walk the other way took us to the main road lined with restaurants and shops. Bang Tao beach is great, a long white sand stretch with really clear water, great for swimming. There are a good selection of beach bars, restaurants and water sports.

Bangtao Beach
Beautiful Bangtao Beach

Tip: We found a great little bar on the way down from our accommodation just a few minutes walk from the beach (no sea view) but it had HAPPY HOUR drinks! It’s called “Tasty Bangtao” and in the same area is Rim Klong Cafe that does the most amazing Mango and Coconut rice. Keep your eye out for them if your in the neighbourhood!

Happy Hour Bang Tao
Best Happy Hour in Town - At Tasty Bangtao!

The accommodation had well priced mopeds for hire so we took advantage of this and rented one to explore the area further. We headed up the coast to Chang Thale Beach, a really lovely tree lined beach and then on to the secret cove “Banana Beach” which had a lovely little restaurant overlooking the ocean. We continued up to Naithon Beach. Its a really beautiful scenic ride along this part of the coast road.

Moped Hire in Bangtao
Our Sweet Sweet Ride!

At the end of Naithon we headed inland and rode through the countryside to our next stop which was Wat Phra Nang Sang and then to Tonsai Waterfall before taking the 4030 back to Bang Tao. We finished the day by riding the coast road along Bangtao. A really great day out!

Bangtao to Patong – local taxi – 420 THB one way

Patong – 3rd December to 8th December – (5 nights) Accommodation: ANGELINA GUEST HOUSE – price 3000 THB for Room With Private Bathroom (total price) Things to See and Do List: Patong Beach, Bangla Road, Phuket Simon Cabaret, Patong Night Market.

Our next few days were spent in the lively resort of Patong, Angelina Guest House was actually in a great location at the edge of town, in a relatively quiet location, yet an easy walk to the centre and the beach. On our must do list while in Thailand was to go to a lady-boy show. We researched the best shows in Thailand and Phuket Simon Cabaret was right up there, so we pre-booked tickets. It just happened that the theatre was only a 15 minute walk away too! It was a great show and you really couldn’t tell that these ladies were actually fellas! After the show we headed back to Patong Food Market for some BBQ mackerel, papaya salad, pad thai and green curry.

Patong Night Market
Great Food At Patong Night Market!

We had a very interesting evening visiting the very popular Bangla Road, full of restaurants, bars and clubs. We just couldn’t decide which ping pong show to go and see!

Choosing A Ping Pong Show in Thailand
Now What Exactly Is A Ping Pong Show!

Patong to Kata – local taxi – 250 THB one way

Kata – 8th December to 14th December – (6 nights) Accommodation: LE THALASSA KATA – price 6600 THB for Room With Private Bathroom (total price) Things to See and Do List: Big Buddha Phuket, Karon View Points, Kata Noi View Point, Kata Night Market.

We planned to have a couple of relaxing days by the beach in Kata. Its a great place to chill out for a few days and you can view the most amazing sunsets from Kata Beach. There are a couple of restaurants at one end serving some great food and cold beers. We just struck luck with an annual street fayre taking place along the path directly opposite the beach. Some great street food was on offer and we took advantage of a couple of evenings eating street food on the beach watching the sun go down. We felt like we were really living the dream!

Kata Food Fayre
Kata Street Fayre!
Sunset at Kata Beach
Kata Beach Sunset!

Just across the road from our guest house was a moped hire shop, so we took advantage of a couple of days hire. This enabled us to visit Big Buddha, high up in the hills of Phuket, a brilliant ride with stunning views. On the way back we stopped of at Kata Noi View Point, there are a couple of restaurants up the top where if you time it right you can get a front line table for magnificent sunset views while sipping a cold beer!

Big Buddha Phuket
Big Buddha Phuket!
Making Friends With The Locals
Making Friends With The Locals!
Sunset Views From Kata Noi View Point
Sunset Views From Kata Noi View Point
Beautiful Beaches in Phuket
Exploring Some Of Phuket's Hidden Beaches!

We had time while we had the scooter to also hunt out some of the areas more secluded beaches and some more amazing views including the Karon View Point. Our few days in Kata would not have been complete without a visit to Kata Night Market for some more brilliant street food!

Kata to Phi Phi Islands – we arranged our transfers to the Phi Phi Islands directly with Phuket Ferry, who provided a brilliant and smooth service. Picking us up at our accommodation in Kata, taking us straight to Rassada Pier in Phuket and a smooth crossing over to Tonsai Pier, Phi Phi Islands – Total cost 1200 THB for 2 people one way. Highly Recommended!

Phi Phi Islands – 14th December to 17th December – (3 nights) Accommodation: PHI PHI ANDAMAN LEGACY RESORT – price 6000 THB for Room With Private Bathroom (total price) Things to See and Do List: Boat Trip To Maya Bay, Snorkelling, Hike To View Point, Explore The Island, Enjoy The Nightlife.

We arrived at Phi Phi Island at 2pm and a member of Phi Phi Andaman Legacy Resort hotel staff was waiting for us to ferry our luggage to the hotel (great service). After checking in we had a wander through the narrow streets checking out restaurants for the evening. We found a great little place overlooking the sea, called Tonsai Seafood, which had a happy hour beers and a really well priced menu.

Andamaan Resort Phi Phi
Time For A Quick Cool Off At The Resort Pool!
Beachfront Breakfast Phi Phi
Beachfront Breakfast Included!

Our next day started really early, after a good breakfast at the hotel we headed down to the pier for our longtail boat trip around Maya Bay. We had researched a few trips before hand and read some really good reviews about Mr Chet’s trips, a little more expensive than some of the other longtail boat trip quotes we received but we went with him based on the reviews and correspondence we had with him prior to booking. We have to say he was absolutely brilliant and one of the highlights of our entire Thailand trip. The 5 hour trip with lunch cost us 3400 THB for 2 people. We headed out to Maya Bay for snorkelling before heading to the beach for lunch, more snorkelling at Shark Reef and then a stop off at Monkey Beach on the way back to Phi Phi. A really well organised trip with a really experienced guide, took us to uncrowded locations and took lots of photos above and underwater that we could access after the trip finished and was happy to take any photos for us with our camera during the trip too. Really highly recommended!

Longtail Boat Ride To Maya Bay
Longtail Boat Ride To Maya Bay!
Maya Bay Beach, Phi Phi
Maya Bay Beach, Phi Phi!

Arriving back to shore early afternoon gave us time to make the hike up to Phi Phi view point giving us fabulous views over the island and the ocean. You’ll find plenty of nightlife on the island, from fire shows on the beach to music clubs in the centre of town. Phi Phi really has got it all and the island really was one of the highlights of Thailand for us!

Phi Phi View Point
At The Top Of The View Point!

Phi Phi Islands to Krabi – again we arranged our transfers to Krabi directly with Phuket Ferry, who provided a brilliant and smooth service. Taking us by boat from Tonsai Pier to Klong Jilad Pier, Krabi and then a taxi on to our accommodation in Krabi Town – Total cost 1600 THB for 2 people one way. Highly Recommended!

Krabi – 17th December to 24th December – (7 nights) Accommodation: HOP INN KRABI – price 5600 THB for Room With Private Bathroom (total price) Things to See and Do List: River Trip, Khao Khanab Nam Caves, Thai Cooking Class, Krabi Night Market, Railay and Ao Nang Beach, Wat Tham Seua Krabi, Hot Springs.

Arriving at our accommodation Hop Inn Krabi around 7pm we took the 5 minute walked straight in to town to find somewhere to eat. We noticed a street vendor selling Chicken Noodle Soup and seemed really busy, so we decided to go for it. We are not sure of the name, as it wasn’t on his cart but he was on the same street corner every night, keep an eye out for him as the soup was excellent!

Krabi Soup Stall
Great Soup in Krabi!
Krabi Chicken Noodle Soup
Thai Chicken Noodle Soup, Krabi!

Having a week in Krabi gave us chance to hire a scooter for a couple of days. On the first day we headed out to explore Railay and Ao Nang beaches. With stunning scenery along the route we spent the day driving along the coast as far as Hat Noppharet Thara and Mu Koh Phi Phi National Park. A beautiful area of natural forest and un-spoilt beaches.

Krabi Beach, Thailand
One Of Krabi's Beautiful Beaches!

On the second day we took an inland route and headed to Wat Tham Seua Krabi (Tiger Cave Temple). We climbed the 1260 steps, passing the local monkeys on the way, to the top where the Golden Buddha has commanding views over the area. Before we left we visited the tiger cave temple. We then headed to Krabi Hot Springs and Emerald Pool. Well worth a visit the hot springs are great, especially after climbing 1260 steps earlier in the day!

Tiger Cave Temple, Krabi
Tiger Cave Temple!
Wat Tham Seua Krabi
1260 Steps To The Top Of Wat Tham Seua!

We took a river boat upstream to Khao Khanab Nam Caves, through the mangroves and on to fishing village, where the whole village live in houses in the middle of the river, making a living from catching fish for the local restaurants. In the evening we headed to Krabi Night Market for some more great Thai food.

Khao Khanab Nam Caves
Inside Khao Khanab Nam Caves!
Fishing Village, Krabi
Catch Of The Day At Fishing Village!

Before we left Krabi we had one more thing left on our list to do, a Thai Cooking Class! We did a bit of research before hand and found one that picked up from the hotel, had small group numbers and had some great reviews. We certainly struck lucky, we had a brilliant half day. We booked through Cookly and went for the Smart Cook Thai Cookery School. We had a really good experience with a great teacher! There are lots of other classes available on Cookly depending on how long a class you want, how much you want to spend and if you want to include a market visit to buy the produce.

Thai Cooking Class
Learning The Art Of Pad Thai!
Thai Cooking Class
The Results Of Our Cooking Class!

Krabi to Koh Samui – we arranged our transfers to the Koh Samui directly with Seatran Discovery, who provided a brilliant and smooth service. Picking us up at our accommodation in Krabi, taking us overland to Donsak Pier, Surat Thani and a smooth crossing over to Nathon Pier, Koh Samui – Total cost 1695 THB for 2 people one way. Highly Recommended! There are plenty of taxis waiting at Koh Samui Pier. We managed to share the cost of a taxi with two other couples going to Bophut who were on the same boat as us.

Koh Samui – 24th December to 4th January – (6 nights) Accommodation: RIVIERA BEACH BOPHUT – price 21150 THB for Room With Private Bathroom (total price). Things to See and Do List: Fisherman’s Beach Restaurants and Night Market, Big Buddha, Lad Koh View Point, Lipa Noi, Lamai and Chaweng Beaches.

We really pushed the boat out with our accommodation at Riviera Beach Bophut with it being our final part of the Thailand journey. We had 6 nights in a room overlooking the village and then upgraded to a sea view room for the remaining 5 nights. Highly recommend the sea view rooms, waterfront position with amazing views of the ocean and sunsets.

Riviera Beach Bophut
Ocean Views From Our Hotel Room - A Great Place To Work From!

Fisherman’s beach is a great location, with the main street being lined with some really good restaurants, coffee houses and boutique shops. The beach is a sandy strip and the beach side restaurants and bars have made the most of this by offering waterfront dining and tables chairs on the beach itself.

The Address Bophut
First Course Of A Great Seafood Platter At The Address Fisherman's Beach!

We recommend the happy hour cocktails at Copacabana, Some really good set menu seafood deals at The Address and a really cool vibe at Coco Tam’s. For coffee we really liked Tanpopo Cafe, beachfront on the edge of town and also Fisherman’s House Cafe for nice of coffee and good breakfasts too!

Coco Tams Bophut
Coco Tams Bophut, Koh Samui!

To explore the island you really need to hire a moped, we got a pretty decent one from Phusit Motorbike. You can ride round the island in a day, we had the bike a couple of days and visited Big Buddha, Lad Koh View Point, Lipa Noi, Lamai and Chaweng Beaches on the first day. We headed up in to the hills on the second day, where there was fantastic scenery and great coastal views. Its well worth getting out and exploring the island! Bophut Night Market is pretty good too, some really great food stalls. A few more Koh Samui highlights below.

Koh Samui Beach
Koh Samui Has Some Great Beaches!
Great Seafood
Some Great Seafood Too!
Fisherman Walking Street, Bophut
Fisherman Walking Street!
Ocean Views
Happy Hour And Ocean Views!
Island Exploring Koh Samui
Island Exploring!
Shopping Bophut
Mr Fashionista Shopping In The Rain!
Big Buddha Koh Samui
Big Buddha, Koh Samui!

Again for our return ferry from Koh Samui to Surat Thani – we arranged our transfers directly with Seatran Discovery – Total cost 1695 THB for 2 people one way. Highly Recommended!

From Surat Thani Airport, AirAsia who we used for our internal flights, offer cheap flights back to Bangkok International for a connecting flight to most places in the world, or as we did,  why not extend your stay in Asia by flying to Kuala Lumpur and then on to the beautiful city of Singapore.

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Ways to Save While Travelling

Ways To Save While Travelling

Ways to Save While Travelling

Many call them “Travel Hacks” and boy are there some good ones out there. Lets run through a collection of some of the best we’ve tried and found successful in saving a bit while we travel.

Some of the little more obvious.

1.) Book your accommodation early or last minute and use a comparison site to find the best deal.

We always book accommodation as early as possible, from our experience this is one of the best times to bag a deal. However, we cover all angles by always booking a free cancellation accommodation offer when booking so far in advance. This gives us the flexibility of locking in a great deal, changing our mind right up to a few days before as sometimes travel plans change. Plus this allows you to keep an eye out for any better accommodation bargains, while knowing you have something in the bag.

2.) Book accommodation with some kind of cooking equipment.

The minimum we look for is a fridge in any accommodation we book! If there is a microwave then happy days! Save a fortune on eating and drinking out by getting stuff from the supermarket and prepare your own meals. Many times we’ve taken the ingredients for a pretty good meal back with us for much less than a fiver!

3.) Avoid shopping and eating in the tourist centres.

Pretty obvious really but the number of times we’ve sat down at those cool seats for a photo opportunity in a main square of a city with a dish of tapas while sipping a beer, to be charge €15 or more! Take a cool quick selfie in the square and then head down one of the side streets where a beer and tapas will be a fraction of the price, that’s the answer!

4.) Take advantage of discounts and freebies.

As soon as we know we’re going to be staying somewhere we do our research and check out any discounts or freebies we might be able to get our hands on. Groupon and Smartsave can often be good for discount vouchers.
Contact the local tourist board for any voucher leaflets or local discount codes. Do an internet search “discounts and freebies” for the area you are visiting and you’ll be surprised what might come up. You’ll often find FREE walking tours and attractions such as art gallery entrance, but most cities are overflowing with free and low-cost offers, anything from restaurants to tourist attractions.

5.) Take advantage of the experts in the area.

Do an internet search for your area and look for travel blogs! You’ll find there will be some really informative blogs out there written by people who have already been to the area and have lots of tips of anything from cheap eats to must see’s! Bloggers are often on a budget too, so they’ll often recommend good value places.

Little less obvious ways to save while you travel.

1.) Save your paid data and find all the free wifi.

Check out Foursquare, the travel app where people share tips, ratings and reviews on places to go near you. Check out the tips section as you’ll often find posts on where to locate free wifi close to you and wifi passwords for some of those not so generous hotspots. Another great little App is wifimap – go surf for free!

2.) Travel light.

We can’t tell you the amount of times we’ve packed more clothes than we need and those just in case items, that just stay in the case! Travelling light has its obvious advantage that its easy to carry, but the lighter you travel the cheaper you travel you might well get away with just carry on luggage on flights or coach journey’s.

3.) Try and be flexible with your travel days.

Whether you need a bus, train or plane ticket try to be flexible with your departure date as a day or two’s difference can often bag a cheaper rate.

Another little hack to remember, when browsing for travel tickets make sure you use the nifty little “incognito browser”. If you’re using Windows, Linux, or Chrome OS: Press Ctrl + Shift + n. If you’re using a Mac: Press ⌘ + Shift + n. Amazingly, now days, websites can tell that you have visited them and been searching for transport and if you’re searching around and come back for a second search on the same site many of them have an automated system that will increase the fare prices that you see the second time. By browsing “Incognito” the website’s can’t track that you’ve visited them already and they can’t increase the prices. Not sure how long this will last before they find a loophole!

4.) Get the best exchange rates for your money.

We’ve been using Revolut for all our travel currency needs. Grab yourself one of their bank cards which you can load up in your local currency via the app, then each time you want to change currency you can get some of the best rates around. We find the advantages are that it’s free to use, great exchange rates on a number of currencies, you can transfer money from and to the card at the touch of a button and you even get a monthly allowance of free cash withdrawals.

5.) The Best way to save on accommodation costs.

Our final tip and one that has saved us thousands in accommodation costs, its not so much a travel hack but possibly one of the best ways to save while you travel. House and Pet Sitting, a great way to see new places, just pay for your transport and food, stay in some great locations and immerse yourself in local life! Read more at Tips For House and Pet Sitting.

Thank you for visiting our Blog, we would really appreciate your comments,  your thoughts on it,  or your experiences to share and if you have any questions.  There is a comment box at the end of this blog page and we will be so happy to get back to you, to answer and to give any help/advice we can.

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How we caught the travel bug

How we caught the travel bug

How we caught the travel bug

We had both always wanted to visit Thailand, so in November 2017 we left Heathrow Airport heading for Bangkok for a 3 and a half month adventure travelling through Thailand and on to Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. As well as being an amazing experience, the trip would also be a test to see if we could manage a nomadic lifestyle and earn a living whilst on the road.

Going to Thailand

We planned the trip fully before we left …. costs broken down for each day, along with accommodation and transfers.  We weren’t quite up for arriving and pitching up where ever we could.  We weren’t really up for back packing hostels so opted for the cheapest accommodation with a private bathroom.  The accommodation in Asia, Thailand especially, seemed to be mostly high end or hostels. However, by booking early we managed to find hotels and guest houses within the budget we had allotted that suited our needs. 

Arrived in Bangkok, just waiting for the room to our room at the Maderla Guest House. Great little place with a restaurant on the ground floor serving some great Thai Food. Brilliant location, 10 minute walk to Lumphini park, close to the train line and bus stop. Clean comfortable room with ensuite bathroom. Great price too!

Food in Thailand is so cheap! We’d read that you could get a meal and drinks for under a fiver, but didn’t quite believe it. They were right, we ate really cheaply  –  fresh juices and smoothies are everywhere in Asia along with cheap fruit stalls which was our breakfast along with fresh hard boiled eggs and bread bought from the local 7/11 shops.

Fresh Coconuts in Thailand
Fresh coconut water on the beach in Pattaya!

Lunch was cheap street food and dinner was eating with the locals at street side restaurants or at the night markets. Anything from Tom Yum to the most amazing Pad Thai.

Amazing prawns and pad thai at the Taling Chan floating market!

Treating ourselves on Christmas day in Koh Samui. 6 course seafood platter with wine for £15 per head. What a bargain and fabulous food including Lobster, Snapper, Squid, Stuffed Muscles and the most amazing Soft Shell Crab Curry!

We pre-planned just a small selection of excursions that were high on our must do list. Researching the ones with the best reviews, we booked a brilliant Thai cooking class in Krabi, the best lady boy show in Phuket and the most amazing boat and snorkelling trip around the Phi Phi Islands.

Living the dream on the Phi Phi Islands!
Our brilliant Thai cooking class in Krabi! Cooking Tom Yum, Papaya Salad, Pad Thai, Thai Green Curry, spicy Thai soup and Thai Fried Bananas.

With some pretty decent pre-planning, the trip was awesome, super successful and we had an absolute blast. As we got towards the end of our Thailand leg, enjoying a week on the amazing Phi Phi Islands  –  somewhere we had both only dreamed of visiting, we discussed the possibility of travelling indefinitely, going to all of the other places on our bucket list!

How we caught the travel bug
Contemplating the possibility of a full time nomadic life and trying to hatch a plan to make it happen!

So on our return back to the UK, we put our heads together to try and work out a way that we could travel the world on a budget.  After trawling numerous blogs we came across a website that offered a service where people could house and pet sit for people around the world.  Because of our love of animals, the idea of pet sitting while travelling the globe sounded amazing.  Before we knew it, the plan was hatched and thetravellingpetsitters was born.

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